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Craigslist founder: Internet proves 'people are OK'

Editor's note: As part of a special report on online evolution, CNN.com is asking several Web and Internet pioneers for their thoughts on the impact and future of the Internet.

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Craiglist.org founder Craig Newmark, left, jokingly refers to himself as the company's "glamorous figurehead" next to CEO Jim Buckmaster.

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(CNN) -- In 1995, Craig Newmark gave his first name to a small, local Web site that helped spread the word about happenings where he lived in San Francisco, California.

Since then, Craigslist.org has become a flourishing online community of city-centric bulletin boards on which users post notices about everything from job listings to personal ads.

Today, Craigslist serves nearly 200 cities around the world, where it's become a must-read for anyone looking for jobs, housing or even love. Newmark spoke recently by phone with CNN.com's Lila King about his site's legacy in the Internet revolution.

CNN: What do you think the Internet's biggest impact has been?

NEWMARK: The Internet connects people for whatever they want to connect -- for commerce, for socializing; it's all working. The deeper answer is that the Internet is allowing people of goodwill to realize that most everyone is OK, means well and wants to get along. And it's allowing people of goodwill to connect to deal with bigger problems. ...

People using the Web are starting to speak truth to power in the way that the press used to. And they're backing it up with fact-checking, investigative reporting and that kind of thing. And that's really important. Traditional journalism with citizen journalism -- get them together -- that's going to be the dominant mode in the future.

The big lesson for me on the Internet -- the big lesson running Craigslist and doing customer service -- is that people everywhere are overwhelmingly trustworthy and good and moral. They help me remember my moral compass, which basically says, you know, "Don't hurt people." And if you have any time left over, help people out a little.

Basically, [the Internet] reinforces the goodwill of people who already operate that way. And it also reminds people who are taking moral shortcuts that, hey, that ain't OK anymore.

Specifically [in New York], apartment brokers kind of run that market. ... Well, we're now such a big resource in New York for apartments that I can now tell sleazy brokers, "Hey, it's over, you gotta play fair." And that's slowly working. I mean, I figure I've got another year to go on this, but this is my biggest single project.

CNN: What do you use the Internet for?

NEWMARK: I do get a certain amount of news from there. Like, I'll read Wonkette. ... I read the gadget blogs. And I got a new house, and I'm renovating it. I'm using [the Internet] to pick out fixtures and so on. I just spent about an hour doing it, and I was ready to put out my eyes. [Laughs.] This is not something I should be doing, but it is kind of fun. It was built in '22. And it's right on a hill.

CNN: How do you think the Internet will change in the next decade?

NEWMARK: Well, I've given up predictions, given that there are no lunar colonies yet. But I think the big change will be the way it delivers news and entertainment. And as the news industry changes, I think it's going to restore good government. ... It's already happening. It's already helped in [South] Korea and Spain.

CNN: Do you predict any big surprises?

NEWMARK: It's already spreading the word that nerds make better lovers. There was an article about that in the New York Daily News several days ago. ... I'd appreciate it if you could spread the word. I'm not looking, but I think the word needs to get around.

CNN: What do you hope will be Craigslist's legacy?

NEWMARK: People will realize that people everywhere are OK. You've got to be a little careful, but people are OK.

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