You must have probably heard of, or visited Craigslist – a centralized network of online urban communities, which includes FREE classified listings for jobs, housing and other goods. This enormously popular community website was founded by Craig Newmark in 1995. He observed that people on the net helped each other in a friendly and social way, listing answers and references to queries and giving recommendations. Being new to San Francisco, he wanted to create a similar list for events in his community so that more people can be made aware of the local happenings.
Craigslist has grown now into a website that gets 5 billion page views per month, and has reached an annual revenue close to $25 million last year. There is no doubt that it can earn even more with ad revenues the way other newspapers earn their bread and butter. But it doesn’t appear to be interested in making more profit as it continues to charge only companies, not individuals.
Anyway, its commitment to the users is not the main reason I’ve brought up Craigslist. It’s more about what I think is the fascination for lists in general, and how lists are being used as sharing functionality in many websites, both commercial and community.
Almost all retail stores online – whether they’re selling music, games, phones, books, food, tickets, etc – use lists to drive browsing and attract consumers’ attention. Not only is it maximised in interactive media, but it also has been on radio, print and TV for a long time now. Remember Top 40 hits? Or top stories of the last year that are always reviewed on New Year’s eve? And how about all those lists we had to come up with when filling up someone’s ‘slambook’ when we were in elementary school: list of friends, favourite food, favourite songs, favourite books, favourite movies, etc.
In the internet, lists take the form of My Playlists for music; My Friends or My Photos in instant messaging or online photo sites; My Contacts in professional careers sites; My Wish List, Purchase List, Top 10 products and Recommendations in retail stores; My Bookmarks or My Tags in collaborative filtering communities (like del.icio.us). And of course, we cannot talk about lists without Google – the longest list online.
In this fast-paced society, lists are loved – and actually used – because it gives us a quick overview of things without having to search in depth. It allows us to see the bigger picture and look into the details that interest us. With this in mind, I thought I’d start my own list and let readers scan my mind.
As I am still pining for my last vacation and still have a (good) hangover from the abundance of delicious food at the Philippines Independence Day Picnic, I’ll start with Pinoy food lists 😉 and go on to a mix of personal and political ones.