EBay bought 25% stake in Craigslist, as founder Craig commented in his blog. This is not your usual "community effort sold out to big corporation" story. It begins when craigslist first established as company, Craig made a gift of some equity to a guy who was working with him at the time. He reasons that the equity really had more symbolic than actual dollar value. Given the success of craigslist, this is probably self-deprecation. Indeed, this person latter left the company and decided to sold his stake to eBay. The irony is this person is going to make all the monetary gain while Craig would likely to shoulder all the criticism.
Being a for-profit company or owned by big corporation is not necessary a bad thing. People need to make a living and an office need money to run. Even slashdot.org a fervently independent outlet is now owned by VA Software. But craigslist has made a name of itself by strongly resist to commercialize. The web design is basic and text only, entirely free from advertisement. All services are free with the exception of job posting as its sole income. Had it decided to brought in venture capital, craigslist has every potential to be a contender to eBay, a 50 billion dollars corporate giant. But it choose to stay this way, running like a struggling non-profit, forgoing the dream of uncountable wealth.
While it might look a mistake now that he gave away equity to a person who later sell to big corporation and profited, I believe he acted in the interest of the organization at that time. He understand the website that bears his name is more than himself. By making some form of employee ownership he could make it a better and more accountable organization.
I can only hope the ownership change will strengthen craigslist's service without straying it from its mission. No matter what it is going to be, craigslist has already made its name as an antidote to the dot-com frenzy.
2004.08.13 comments -