What is Craigslist and How Does It Work?

Last updated: November 12, 2015 - 12:01am EST

You know that "classifieds" section of your local newspaper that contains advertisements for local people looking to sell goods or services, local companies looking to hire, and local events where people can hang out and hook up?  Craigslist is like the online version of that.

Named after founder Craig Newark, Craigslist began in 1995 as an email distribution service, letting people know about upcoming local events in his hometown of San Francisco.  Incorporated in 1999, Craigslist has expanded beyond event listings and now features listings for job openings, available housing, goods for sale, services for hire, relationship seeking, and general topics of discussion.

Craigslist now has local websites for over 700 cities or general urban areas in 70 countries around the world, and is available in 13 different languages.

How does Craigslist work?

A focus on the local

As we just mentioned, the unique thing about Craigslist is that it isn't just one website.  It's split into over 700 websites that serve advertisements in major cities and urban areas around the world.  This makes it easier to find what (or who) you want closer to home.

Simple and free

Besides what its users post, Craigslist doesn't allow any other advertising on its websites.  In addition, most advertisements are free to post, even without a Craigslist account.  The main exceptions are for companies looking to hire or sell expensive items, such as event tickets or cars & trucks.

Craigslist also doesn't take a cut whenever a purchase or sale is made over the website.  However, this also means that buyers and sellers are left to hash out a transaction's details on their own.  This is why it's important to include at least some contact details with an advertisement, whether that's an email address, phone number, or something else.

What's the word?

If you don't feel like using Craigslist for its advertisements, it also includes discussion forums where you can chat with other Craigslist users on topics ranging from arts and beauty to travel and writing.

So now that you know a little about Craigslist, head over to our Craigslist Review (up next) and see what we've picked out as the strong and weak points of the service.


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