While reading the S.F. Weekly's profile of Craigslist, I came across this passage from author Ryan Blitstein:
As a private for-profit, Craigslist doesn't have to publicly disclose anything. SF Weekly parent company New Times doesn't release many financial details, either. Newmark, though, views his creation as something different. "We do a better job as a nominal for-profit," he says, "but we exist in a category that doesn't really exist in the law."
That "category" allows Newmark to keep the domain Craigslist.org, a name that gives the false impression that the site is a nonprofit, by using ".org," an extension almost exclusively used by nonprofit companies and foundations. Craigslist's marketing materials call this "a symbol of our service mission and non-corporate culture." (Craigslist.com, which the company also owns, draws far less traffic.) It permits Newmark to use the word "non-commercial" twice on Craigslist's "Mission and History" page, and to bury the phrase "No charges, except for job postings" in the third line from the bottom. It means establishing a separate nonprofit, the Craigslist Foundation, which trains other nonprofits in marketing, technology, and fundraising skills, but makes no grants, has no endowment, and charges for many of its training events. This year, Craigslist will provide less than half of the foundation's $240,000 budget.
There's at least one other example of a famous for-profit .org. Slashdot.com redirects to Slashdot.org. Alexa currently ranks Slashdot as #849 in traffic rank. (There are only a handful of non-profit .orgs in Alexa's Top 500.)
Should Craigslist and Slashdot be using .org? Probably not. But how many average readers are really influenced unduly by the .org label? Don't look to the caretakers of .org to help.
I, like Blitstein, do find Craigslist's use of the term "non-commercial" to be rather problematic.
Technorati tag: Craigslist