Here's Why Craigslist Still Looks the Same After 25+ Years (2024)

Craigslist emerged in 1995 to connect strangers through a free, web-based platform that has endured as rivals services like Zillow, Facebook Marketplace, and countless dating apps emerged with advanced features and slick interfaces.

These platforms survive on advertising and subscription revenue. Craigslist, of course, has none of that. Over the years, the OG online marketplacehas all but refused to modernize; its mobile app only came out in 2019 after nearly 25 years in business.

Here's Why Craigslist Still Looks the Same After 25+ Years (1)

The current Craigslist site upholds its unmistakable '90s look and feel. (Credit: PCMag/

Why does the website still look the same after so many decades? That was the main question I had when I sat down for a video call with craigslist founder Craig Newmark, who joined me from the New York City apartment he shares with his wife, Eileen Whelpley.

Newmark stepped down as CEO of craigslist in 2000 after others told him he wasn’t cut out for management, he says. Jim Buckmaster has been at the helm since, though Newmark remains a partial owner. He now works on philanthropy full time, supporting groups like the Coalition Against Online Violence, which helps combat harassment against female journalists. Still, the 69-year-old entrepreneur is a billionaire (or near-billionaire since he’s given away millions).

Our chat yielded much more than expected, from Costco hotdogs to Hello Kitty and his childhood Sunday School lessons. It’s clear that the website is the purest and most enduring expression of Craig Newmark, a humble tech mogul who marches to the beat of his own drum.

PCMag: What’s that behind you? A Wikipedia flag? And what’s in the black frame?
Yes, that's Wikipedia. I’m heavily involved with them on my mission to fight disinformation on the internet. And that frame is when I was on the cover of the Costco Connection magazine. That articulates a great deal of what I’m about. My mother used to rave about their hotdogs. They're delicious and highly cost effective. I have very pedestrian tastes, and I’m eclectic. I’m very involved in pigeon rescue, for example.

Is there anything that you splurge on?
Well, I have a new and bigger TV now. And I allow myself to buy as many books as I want. But I have no car. It's more satisfying for me as a nerd to provide for friends and family and to make a difference. For example, Mabel Hsu, who does finances for craigslist and my philanthropic work, loves Hello Kitty for reasons unknown. Up the street from me there’s a store that sells Hello Kitty crap. I think she needs new Hello Kitty clips, so I’ll go there shortly and get her some.

Here's Why Craigslist Still Looks the Same After 25+ Years (2)

Newmark plays with animations on a Google Meet phone call. 'Oh, that's very Borg," he says as he came across this one. 'As in Jean-Luc Picard when the when the Borg took them over [in Star Trek].' (Credit: PCMag)

How many people work at craigslist today?
It’s in the 10s - a mix between development, customer service, and accounting. No marketing.

Did your personal financial strategy influence the way you monetized craigslist?
I remember Sunday School, and Mr. and Mrs. Levin - the principal teachers at the Hebrew school at the Jewish community center in Morristown, New Jersey, where I grew up - saying you need to treat people like you want to be treated. And they told me to know when enough is enough. That's central to my philosophy.

Also, I don’t like banner ads. They slow things down, and they’re often kind of dumb. That’s a decision I made at the end of ‘97.

Here's Why Craigslist Still Looks the Same After 25+ Years (3)

Newmark likens this animation to the lawyer who couldn't figure out how to remove a cat face during a Zoom-based court appearance. (Credit: PCMag)

Craigslist makes money on listing fees, right? But only on certain types of listings.
Yes, things like job ads, apartment ads, car ads. I don’t have a perfect list in my head.

Since you founded craigslist, so many other sites have been created by people who wanted to make as much money as possible. Did you consciously decide to not participate in that?
Around ‘98, VCs and bankers wanted to throw huge amounts of money at me to do the usual thing. But I decided not to. And again, it’s not altruism. Remember, back to Mr. and Mrs. Levin - you have to know when enough is enough.

To be honest, I find myself resisting the simplicity of your answers. How was it so easy for you to not participate in all that hype?
Well, sometimes you want to do one thing and do it really well. In the computer industry, and maybe everywhere, people get ambitious and screw things up. I figured I started one thing, did it well, and I gave it up when that was the right thing to do.

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And I mostly am a 1950s-style nerd. Growing up, I wore a plastic pocket protector for real. I had glasses taped together in the middle and marginal social skills. Even now, I’m only simulating or faking social skills. I am generally oblivious to social cues and signals of prestige and status, so all that doesn’t mean anything to me.

So, this leads me to my main question: Why does the website still look the pretty much the same today as when you founded it? There’s even a new CEO. What’s going on?
Because that serves people better. I've learned that people want stuff that is simple and fast and gets the job done. People don't need fancy stuff. Sometimes you just want to get through the day.

Well, you can still have simplicity with a modern font or a new UI. The definition of simplicity on the web has changed over the years. Is it just that you're making enough money and there's a desire to keep it the way it is?
I'll challenge the premise that the idea of simplicity has changed. The deal is that people still use the site in great numbers. And again, it helps people get something done. It’s fast and easy for people, and that’s a big deal.

And maybe you also don’t care too much about aesthetics (of the website, for example.)
For me as an engineer, simple is beautiful. Functional is beautiful.

How would you feel if craigslist dramatically changed in its appearance or its function?
I'm okay if the spirit is maintained. I like a very simple site with its use and functionality obvious when you look at it. Now maybe there's a better way to do that, that no one has come up with yet. If it's really better, I can't object to that. If it's genuinely better, I will say something. But again, I can't legitimately try to exert serious influence. Jim's boss.

In summary, what is your most concise answer to why craigslist still looks the same today?
People tell me it gets the job done. They want it done. As I like to put it, a nerd’s got to do what a nerd’s got to do.

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Here's Why Craigslist Still Looks the Same After 25+ Years (2024)


Why does Craigslist look like that? ›

One of the main reasons why the UI/UX of Craigslist is so poor is that the platform has not undergone a significant redesign in over a decade. The platform's design is outdated and lacks the modern features and functionality that users have come to expect from online marketplaces.

Is Craigslist still successful? ›

Yet in spite of that, it remains a household name whose niche in the contemporary digital landscape has yet to be usurped, with an estimated 180 million visits in May 2024.

Why is Craigslist so popular? ›

Additionally, craigslist has always been free to use for most users, which has helped to build a large and loyal user base. Another key factor in craigslist's success is its strong focus on local communities. The site is organized by city and region, making it easy for people to connect with others in their area.

How long has Craigslist been around? ›

Craig's list was launched in 1995 by Craig Newmark, a software engineer, as a free e-mail service that described upcoming events in the San Francisco Bay area of California.

What does everyone use instead of Craigslist? ›

Craigslist Alternatives for Selling Online
  • Decluttr. Decluttr is a popular option for one-stop buying and selling of used equipment. ...
  • Buyback Boss. Buyback Boss is another option to get cash for your used smartphone, tablet, smartwatch, or other electronics. ...
  • Gazelle. ...
  • Poshmark. ...
  • ThredUp. ...
  • BookScouter. ...
  • Cardpool. ...
  • Bonanza.
Apr 26, 2024

Is Craigslist outdated? ›

Do People Still Use Craigslist? Absolutely. You can search your local area on Craigslist and find used furniture, cars, rentals, and even jobs. However, because so many Craigslist alternatives exist, it is no longer a one-stop shopping powerhouse when it debuted in 1995.

Why does no one use Craigslist? ›

The lack of oversight or security. Initially it was like the bulletin board of old — advertising goods and services. However, it turned into a unsafe place that people could easily get scammed. I post For Sales on Craigslist.

Why is Craigslist so sketchy? ›

Craigslist is a legitimate website, and most Craigslist posts are legitimate and trustworthy as well. However, just like any other online platform, it can be used by scammers. Some people may post fraudulent listings only pretending to sell goods or services, so take precautions to ensure your safety.

Is Craigslist declining? ›

Revenue of Craigslist 2018-2022

Craigslist lost almost half its revenue from 2018 to 2020, going from about one billion to 566 million U.S. dollars. However, the classifieds website's revenue grew after the decline in 2020, reaching 694 million U.S. dollars in 2022.

What city has the most traffic on Craigslist? ›

According to the Alexa data, the Los Angeles Craigslist accounts for 6.41 percent of the traffic going to Craigslist, while Chicago makes up 3.07 percent of Craigslist traffic.

How many Americans use Craigslist? › Website Traffic by Country
CountryAll devices
United States89.82%168.24M
United Kingdom0.43%812.96K
1 more row

Why did Craigslist change its format? ›

“The changes to HTML postings may be driven by a desire to level the playing field for all those posting to Craigslist, at best, however it's our belief that responding to demonstrated customer desire by hindering innovation is not the best approach for the industry at large,” Pier- son says.

Why is Craigslist a poorly designed website? ›

Craiglist's website is not responsive on different devices, which affects the amount of traffic it attracts and retains. By enriching the mobile website experience, Craigslist could see an uptick in traffic and a lower bounce rate, as people will be more likely to visit and stay on the site.

How shady is Craigslist? ›

Yes, you can still get scammed with in-person transactions on Craigslist. Scammers may sell counterfeit or stolen items, or the item might differ from what was advertised. To reduce this risk, inspect the item in detail before paying, meet in a safe, public location, and avoid carrying large amounts of cash.

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