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Craigslist.org goes global but sticks to 'local' philosophy

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There are no fancy logos on Craigslist.org but it hasn't stopped it becoming one of the world's most popular sites.

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SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- It may not have the instantly identifiable primary-colored logo of eBay, but another Web site is having a big impact on how business is done in Cyberspace.

Craigslist.org is a simply-designed site -- it does not even have a fancy logo, just the words "Craigslist" in plain type.

But, a decade after it was created, it is now one of the most popular Web sites in the world -- currently number 22 on Alexa.com, an Amazon-owned site that provides detailed statistics and information about Web site visitors.

Founder Craig Newmark started the privately owned online business with the aim of keeping his friends up to date with what was happening in his hometown, San Francisco.

The "stay local" philosophy has stuck, but the business is anything but -- Craigslist.org attracts more than 10 million unique visitors each month.

Craigslist.org is a place to find a new job, new apartment or even a new love interest. It does not charge individuals to make a posting, but does charge businesses who want to advertise situations vacant.

There is no registration process to use the site and no pop-up advertisements.

"I think people like us because of the culture of trust we have in the site, the culture of goodwill -- and people manage to get stuff done," Newmark told CNN.

Annual revenue is said to be $7-10 million, prompting eBay to buy a 25 percent stake last year.

Despite this, Newmark is still chairman of Craigslist, and his "stay local" philosophy has not disappeared -- he is also a customer service representative, handling more than 600 e-mails every day.

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster told CNN that the site's simplicity was its key to success.

"The site is very simple and easy to use. It cuts across all aspects of life. If you are a newcomer to a city, you can get basically all you need to create a new life, in one site," he said.

Digital media analyst Bob Cauthorn told CNN Craigslist was having such a big impact on the advertising industry that local papers were feeling the effects.

He believed that in the San Francisco area alone, the site was costing papers $50-60 million a year.

"This group of fewer than 20 people has ended up taking away the most important business franchise for three newspaper organizations in the Bay Area alone that have gross revenues of close to $1 billion and 6,000 employees," he said.

"So digital media changes the economics of business altogether."

Cauthorn said it wasn't too late for the print industry to regain some of the market, by decoupling print from online efforts, and by focusing on customer service.

And newspapers the world over may soon have to heed that advice. Craigslist.org is now global: there are now sites for 175 cities in 34 countries, including India, South Africa and the UK.

Despite the millions of dollars in sales, the eBay investment and the media attention, Newmark is determined to hold fast to his guiding principle: keep it simple.

"We've observed over the years that when an organization grows, it grows more dysfunctional as it grows bigger. And nobody has really figured out how to solve that so staying small is really good."

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout contributed to this report

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