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. Here’s what Newmark had to say when asked about the site’s appearance: 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 as 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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