From pigeons to press, Craig Newmark of Craigslist talks philanthropy and simplicity at Berkeley event

Vivian Roan/Staff

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Craig Newmark, creator of the popular classified advertisements website Craigslist, spoke about his philanthropic business model and his website’s simplicity during a Berkeley Forum event Tuesday evening.

Newmark, whose dialogue was sprinkled with comedy and life lessons, talked to the audience about his experience in creating the website and his “philosophy of philanthropy.” Newmark’s site, Craigslist, has famously stuck to its basic web design and has not strayed from its simplistic form.

When asked about ways the company might try to modernize, Newmark responded that he is focused on ways it needs to stay the same.

Newmark has three current goals for the company: listen to people, maintain the philosophy of  “doing well to do good” and keep the website simple, fast and useful.

Newmark detailed the origins of Craigslist — which Newmark considered naming SF Events — adding that the website started as an event-listing webpage in 1995 that provided a list of what he thought were “cool events” in the San Francisco area. The webpage soon began incorporating job listings and other classified ads.

During the forum, Newmark also discussed his various philanthropy projects, which range from supporting “trustworthy” journalism — which he said is the “immune system of our democracy” — to rescuing pigeons.

“I’m trying to put my money where my mouth is,” Newmark said during the forum. “I kind of operate on things that feel right. Instinctively, I opt for things that help people.”

The event attracted multiple computer science majors. Campus sophomore Daniel Ho, attended the event because he said he was wondering why the company stuck to the philosophy of simplicity.

“I think it’s interesting how Craiglist has grown into something that everyone knows about, yet the website still has a very simple look,” Ho said. “It’s still in many ways very basic even though it’s very widespread and effective.”

Another computer science major, campus senior Pramod Chandrasekhar, said he was inspired by Newmark’s internet entrepreneurship and wanted to hear him speak.

“Since Craig is an internet entrepreneur, and I’m a CS major, I thought that it would be relevant and interesting to hear from him,” Chandrasekhar said. “I have never been to (Berkeley Forum events), and I am a college senior, and I wanted to go to one before I left.”

Maura Smith, the major gifts officer at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, said she came to hear Newmark talk because of his support for the journalism school.

“I am here because he’s on the journalism school advisory board,” Smith said. “Craig’s a big supporter of truth and journalism. … He also supports The Trust Project currently housed in Santa Clara.”


Contact Sabrina Dong at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Sabrina_Dong_.