Back in 1995, the internet was in its infancy. On March 1st of that year, Craig Newmark, who had just been laid off from his job as a computer engineer at Charles Schwab, sent an email to his friends announcing his intention to "give back." With the time off his job loss afforded him, and his severance package, Newmark launched a mailing list of art and technology events around San Francisco. That mailing list morphed into Craigslist.org. That was five months before Netscape went public and about six months before the launch of Windows 95. Craigslist is one of the last true first of wave dot-com era holdovers. The online classifieds site was the 46th most visited website in the United States in March 2017 with 59 million unique visitors – that's more than the Wall Street Journal and Expedia.com. Craigslist has made 65-year-old Craig Newmark a billionaire. Now, 23 years later, Newmark is still giving back. He's become a major philanthropist.
Over the last few years, Newmark has donated $40 million to journalism initiatives, $50 million to his private foundation Craig Newmark Philanthropies, through which he gives to causes that support voter registration, women in technology, and military families. Most recently he made a $1 million grant through DonorsChoose.org for public school teachers in STEM. Teachers at schools where more than half of the students are from low income families can apply for funding for science and math classroom projects.
The $40 million that Newmark has given to journalism initiatives is aimed to fight the plague of fake news that started during the 2016 presidential election. In 2017 he gave $1 million each to the nonprofit news forums ProPublica and the Poynter Institute. He also gave a $20 million endowment, in one lump sum to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. The school was renamed the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.
Craigslist is a cash cow. According to research done by Advanced Interactive Media Group, Craigslist took in more than $690 million in revenue in 2016 – most of that net profit. With that level of revenue, the company is conservatively valued at about $3 billion. Even more amazing, the San Francisco-based company has never raised any outside investment. Craigslist is free for most users.
The vast majority of classified listings on Craigslist are free and only a small subset is charged for posts. The site started charging $25 for job postings in 1998 simply to cover the costs of running the website. Today the site also charges fees for categories including ticket sales by brokers, New York City apartment listings, and cars sold by dealers, to name just a few. Fees range from $7 to $75 per posting depending on location. Fees were expanded in listings to combat spammers in categories that were very competitive, such as New York City apartment listings. At one point in the early 2000s, the site was making $40,000 a day on just job ads in the Bay Area alone. That sum has increased dramatically over the ensuing years.
Newmark has not been involved in Craigslist's day-to-day operations since 2000.