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The power of Craigslist…and philanthropy

Philanthropy is still a big business.

Craigslist has been in news lately. And, why wouldn’t it be? With monthly hits of more than a billion users, and Yahoo! trying to buy Facebook, there’s speculation that this “simpler than Google” website would be looking for buyers soon. Founder Craig Newmark has denied any such intentions to “sell out”. I am not going to comment on his reasons for not trying to mint money out of his creation.

Craigslist is indeed phenomenal. It is hardly even “Web 1.0” in terms of layout and design, much less Web 2.0. Yet, it still is profitable, and brings in a lot of traffic both nationally as well as internationally. One quick glance on this website would tell you exactly how it manages to do this. Craigslist is a haven for anyone looking to buy, sell, barter, find dates, get a job, provide a job, and generally rant about their life. It is like a Usenet frontend, only without the confusion and overflow.

Just yesterday, I placed an ad in the Raleigh Craigslist to sell off my year old vacuum cleaner. Amazingly, I had the money within 2 hours of posting that ad. This is the power of Craigslist. Many people use it to make friends. I, personally, have met a lot of people and groups just by posting and replying to ads. It’s fascinating how much more attention your ad gets if it has a picture attached. I have sold a computer monitor and a TV through Craigslist, and in all the cases a picture really helped me get a lot of replies. Of course, Craigslist has also been the center of a lot of “social experiments” about people’s lifestyles.

One thing I noticed about Newmark’s rebuttal to claims that he was going to sell out was how he pointed out that he doesn’t want to raise money even for philanthropy. According to him, it is very hard to find a good cause to contribute to. I find it sad that even with all this Internet revolution and connectivity, we’re still unable to find valuable outlets for philanthropy. What he said isn’t incorrect. Philanthropy has always been a part of our lives, and sadly there isn’t much on the Internet that helps us share our happiness with others. There are lots of up and coming companies working on this aspect though (including me), and there’ll be lots of competition in this area very soon. Until then, I am surprised that Craig Newmark didn’t think about using his own company to find out good philanthropic causes!

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