Craigslist is now ubiquitous, the 7th most visited website online. For 12 years now, it has been the most popular online classified ad service of the San Francisco Bay Area, and, for lesser amounts of time, many cities and regions around the world (they have a very interesting timeline of their expansion listed in their FAQs). To help finance their operations, Craigslist does now charge for their most popular listings--job openings in San Francisco and a handful of other large cities, and apartments in New York.
I ran into an interesting quirk about the users of Craigslist, and the internet more generally, over the weekend. Armed with the yard sale listings from the Durham Herald-Sun, my boyfriend and I went off in search of furniture for his house. Following the listings, we ended up in mostly rural areas that were quite far from each other. I was confused at the seeming lack of sales in the more urban neighborhoods closer to the city center. After a couple of hours, we started following signs posted on telephone poles with more luck. One seller, in response to our question of whether there were other yard sales in the area he knew of, suggested we look on Craigslist. "There are tons of them listed on there." And of course he was right, more sales than we had time to see had all been posted there, and for free. I had simply not thought of it. When I was a kid, posting in the physical newspaper was all you needed to ensure a large yard sale audience. Who continues to advertise in traditional classified ads vs. a service like Craigslist can tell you a lot about who is and is not using the internet regularly.
Now that it has become so large, Craigslist can be used for more than to sell your furniture or find a date. Julie and Amanda, two women from Philadelphia, decided to drive to Ontario to get married, and needed witnesses for the ceremony at Toronto City Hall. And what better place to find such a thing in a city you don't know than Craigslist? You can read their story from the perspective of one of the accordion-playing responders to their original ad here. As good as it gets for the internets, I say.
On the other end of the spectrum, the number of strange or just plain bad experiences on Craigslist can't be ignored. Recently, I came across a strange debate on a Livejournal community begun by a woman who relied on Craigslist postings when searching for an apartment in New York, a city unfamiliar to her. Unsurprisingly, Bedford-Stuyvesant is much more than cheap rent, as she discovered and reported (though not very well, in my opinion) in this blog entry. Sort of shows what can happen when the internet (and the many people who want to control your perspective of something) is the only lens you have to view a neighborhood or apartment or even a couch.
Personally, I love what Craigslist offers and will continue to rely on it for such minor things as yard sales or a buyer for my little dorm refrigerator. However, I am still going to do a lot of backup research before renting an apartment or using a service (whether it's finding an intern or a plumber) advertised there, much akin to the finding that the most common use for e-mail is to facilitate your IRL interactions.
Any other Craigslist experiences out there that you all would like to share?