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As Homer Said: "Stupid Like A Fox"

By: Mathew Ingram

In a recent post, my friend Tony Hung of Deep Jive Interests has taken an audio interview that David "Everything is Miscellanous" Weinberger did with Craig Newmark of and concluded that Craig...

...was essentially just in the right place at the right time and lucked into what has become one of the most successful online communities around - one that could be worth as much as $500-million, depending on how you measure such things.

As Tony describes it, "Craig Newmark is no visionary. He's no guru. And he's no soothsayer. He's a guy who lucked into his business, and it continues to succeed in spite of his lackadaisical efforts at starting it and running it." Because he was early, he gained a "first mover" advantage, Tony argues, and therefore developed network effects that now make the site virtually unassailable. But what really seems to tick Tony off - as it does most of Wall Street, I'm sure - is craigslist's determination not to monetize itself:
    "Not wanting to take advantage of an enormous opportunity to create an efficient business and maximize revenue - especially to do more Good well, that doesn't strike me as being wise. It just strikes me as being lazy."
Lazy? Maybe. In fact, in his keynote with Mark Evans at the mesh conference last week - which we will hopefully have video of soon (and which Tony himself live-blogged ) - Buckmaster said laziness is actually one of the reasons why craigslist makes any money at all. He said implementing fees was one of the laziest ways to cut down on job-listing spam, instead of trying to come up with new and complex technological solutions. But it worked.

I think craigslist's success is a lot more nuanced than Tony suggests. Yes, Craig was lucky with the timing - but I think that his and Jim Buckmaster's laser-like focus on the user, without being distracted by the lure of and banners and pop-ups and so on, has a lot to do with why the site has become as successful as it has, and has stayed there.

If craigslist had gone the same route everyone else has, the uniqueness of the service would have been lost and it would have floundered and failed. You can't separate one from the other.



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About the Author:
Mathew Ingram is a technology writer and blogger for the Globe and Mail, a national newspaper based in Toronto, and also writes about the Web and media at and

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