- Craigslist is one of the top 20 websites in the US, and generates over $1 billion in revenue.
- The site’s been around since 1999, and now serves 700 cities in 70 countries.
- Here are 12 surprising facts about one of the most well-known sites on the internet.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Craigslist is not just one of the largest websites on the internet.
It also dates back to the web’s earliest days, having gotten its start in 1999, when founder Craig Newmark turned his email newsletter featuring local events in the San Francisco Bay Area into a website.
Craigslist now serves 700 cities spread across 70 countries — all with a site that eschews modern design in favor of a mostly text-based layout that is largely unchanged since the early 2000s.
Here are 12 facts that you might not know about Craigslist, the classified ad marketplace with an archaic site design.
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Craigslist’s annual revenue is greater than the Netherlands’ GDP
Craigslist is privately held by just two people — founder Craig Newmark and CEO Jim Buckmaster — and the company rarely makes any public comment about its profits.
But according to CNBC, analysts estimate that the classified ad site may have taken in more than $1 billion in 2018, thanks in large part to a continued strong demand for classified ads and some small price hikes on paid ads.
That means a business with just 50 employees and virtually no corporate infrastructure took in more than the entire GDP of countries like Switzerland, Turkey, and the Netherlands.
Thanks to Craigslist, newspaper classified sales plummeted 77% in just 10 years
It’s no surprise that Craigslist played a hand in the decline of traditional newspapers. But it’s sobering just how dramatic that turned out to be.
Classified ad revenue for daily papers peaked in 2000, just shy of $20 billion. By 2012, classified advertising was just $4.6 billion — a drop of 77%. Through that entire period, most Craigslist classified ads were free, although the site started charging for job ads in 2004, but offset that with a free “gigs” section.
Craigslist gets more visitors than Netflix
Despite having essentially no advertising, promotion, or marketing, Craigslist manages to consistently rank in the top 20 websites in the US. According to SimilarWeb, it’s about the 15th most popular site, beating out Netflix, Zillow, Walmart, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and CNN. It also ranks around No. 118 worldwide.
If Craigslist were a city, it would be among the most dangerous in the US
It goes without saying that you should exercise caution — extreme caution, in fact — when trying to make a transaction on Craigslist. The site has been ground zero for as many as 128 murders since the site started accepting classified ads, according to Craigslist Killings, a blog that tracks every incident.
The stats are grim and macabre: There have been shootings, stabbings, and strangulations; some clearly premeditated, some related to theft, sex, or passion. And in at least one case, a teen reportedly posted an ad on Craigslist asking to be murdered. The 19-year-old Colorado woman Natalie Bollinger was subsequently killed by Joseph Lopez, who was sentenced to 48 years in prison.
Craigslist’s corporate structure is built around a psychology principle called Dunbar’s number
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark has been very up-front over the years in discussing his lack of social skills, organizational aptitude, and business acumen. In part, that is why he decided to keep his Craigslist organization small, citing a concept in psychology known as Dunbar’s number, which suggests that there’s a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom any person can maintain stable social relationships.
Read more: Meet Craig ‘Craigslist’ Newmark, the self-professed ‘nerd’ who built a $1 billion online listing empire and donated $20 million to a media company that’s now facing a massive editorial exodus
British anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed that this number is no more than 150, and so Newmark and CEO Jim Buckmaster have endeavored to limit the size of Craigslist to allow him and the other employees to have healthy working relationships. The current company staff comprises just 50 employees.
A sex trafficking bill shut down a huge section of Craigslist
For years, Craigslist operated the internet’s most popular personal classifieds, but the entire section abruptly disappeared in 2018.
The reason? The US Senate passed HR 1865, a bill known as the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. The bill allowed law enforcement to prosecute websites which allowed sex workers to use the site.
Because of concerns that sex workers relied on the personal ads on Craigslist, the site opted to shut it down entirely rather than build in safeguards. Craigslist bid farewell to nearly 20 years of personal ads with the message, “To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through craigslist, we wish you every happiness!”
A bank robber once staged an elaborate movie-like diversion during a heist using Craigslist
Back in 2008, a creative criminal with a flair for the dramatic robbed an armored truck parked outside a Bank of America in Monroe, Washington.
But rather than doing it alone, Anthony Curcio crowdsourced his robbery by placing an ad on Craigslist for road maintenance workers. He asked applicants to meet near the bank wearing yellow safety vests, goggles, a blue shirt, and respirator mask — the same disguise he was wearing when he overpowered the guard with pepper spray, stole money, and fled the scene. Police arrived to find several men matching the suspect’s exact description.
Initially, the ruse worked, but Curcio ultimately was tracked down and sentenced to six years in prison.
One Craigslist user bartered his way from a cell phone to a Porsche
Steven Ortiz was 17 years old when he used Craigslist to trade his way from an old cell phone to a 2000 Porsche Boxster S.
Over the course of 14 trades, he worked his way up — starting with a simple swap to a slightly better cell phone, then to an iPod. He worked his way through a laptop, dirt bike, a 1987 Toyota 4Runner, a golf cart, and a 1975 Ford Bronco. The Porsche he ended up with was worth about $9,000.
Ortiz wasn’t the first person to try his hand at such a barter. That honor goes to Kyle MacDonald and his “one red paperclip” that he eventually bartered up to a house. But unlike MacDonald, Ortiz pulled this off entirely within Craigslist, without any outside help.
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark is one of the biggest philanthropists in America.
With an estimated net worth of about $1.6 billion, Newmark donated a sizable $143.8 million to charity last year.
And his donations are substantial. In 2018, for example, he came in 11th in the list of the 50 top philanthropists in the United States, as compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. In fact, he came in just ahead of Bill and Melinda Gates, who gifted $138 million that same year despite having a net worth 60 times that of Newmark.
Weird Al and Ray Manzarek teamed up to record a song about the site
If you haven’t kept tabs on “Weird Al” Yankovic in a long time, you might have missed his 2009 song “Craigslist.” Set against a musical backdrop that’s heavily inspired by The Doors (and with keyboards played by Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek himself), Weird Al sings about buying and selling assorted minutiae on the classified site while channeling the persona of Jim Morrison.
Craigslist’s CEO isn’t interested in maximizing revenue (and is routinely accused of being a communist)
Craigslist’s founder, Craig Newmark, is notoriously outspoken about his lack of social skills and his dislike of leadership and management roles. So, just one year after hiring Jim Buckmaster as a programmer to help build and maintain the site, he promoted Buckmaster to CEO and stepped away from leading the business.
Buckmaster has been variously described as a “communist” and “socialistic anarchist,” and has gone on record multiple times that he “is not trying to maximize revenue.” He leans into these descriptions in his official executive bio on the Craigslist “About” page.
You could once buy an $8 million McLaren F1 on Craigslist
While Craigslist is fertile territory for affordable and roughly used cars, occasionally you can find some monstrously expensive vehicles listed on the site. In 2014, a private owner put his 1994 McLaren F1 for sale for $7.9 million. And surprisingly, it’s not a one-time anomaly.
In 2008, a San Francisco dealer put a Bugatti Veyron on the site with a list price of $1.3 million. And that topped a previous post for an $875,000 1965 Shelby GT 350 Mustang, which was offered that same year.