In the past four years, as the dot-coms boomed and busted, Craigslist, with a staff of 14, has expanded to offer listings in 48 U.S. cities. It also has sites in nine cities in Ireland, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
In this sort of online, laid-back democracy, trust is key and users get heard. The site's "flagging system" is proof of that: If you find an ad offensive, you can "flag" it, and with enough "flags," it will be automatically deleted from the site. Users can also suggest new sites (in cities like Anchorage) and new categories (like "collectibles").
Craig Newmark isn't the boss at the Craigslist office in San Francisco. That title goes to Jim Buckmaster, right, Craigslist president and CEO.
(Randi Lynn Beach For The Washington Post)
The "wash, DC" site is the fastest-growing listing, increasing its traffic 300 percent in the past year, Craig says.
"I think Washington is a very networked city, in the human sense," he explains, sighing. "Once people saw that we're for real, very useful and effective, people told each other."
Craigslist, by the way, has never advertised anywhere. It's all word of mouth.
On Oct. 3, at 11:18 p.m., this ad was posted on "missed connections," the "I Saw You" personals on Craigslist.
"You walked through the hidden iron doors on Saturday night looking very dapper in your suit. It looked like you were with your family, possibly siblings. A pair of twins, perhaps? That runs in my family, too. I watched you talk about mail order frogs with some floosie. I wanted to share my love for amphibians with you as well, but it is so difficult with the secret service always following me around. Will we meet again on the corner of Wisconsin and O??"
Three days later, Ana Marie Cox -- wonkette.com herself, whom Craig Newmark credits for the surge in usage in the area -- posted a link of this ad to her site. She writes, "Being the president's daughter apparently has its downsides."
"I thought the posting was so funny," says Cox, 32. "Clearly, it was a thinly veiled parody of Jenna Bush."
Cox links to Craigslist frequently and finds the site fitting, "in a weird sort of way," to the D.C. crowd. "It's this nexus for staffers and drones and interns who are frustrated, bored, sitting at their desks doing nothing. There's something about the anonymity" -- the Oct. 3 ad, indeed, was posted anonymously -- "that must appeal to the paranoid D.C. type."