Nearly every person living in/near a major city with any sort of techno-saavy has heard of, used, or thought about using Craigslist, the community website started by a bunch of geeks in San Francisco.
The appeal of Craigslist is a combination of bare simplicity (*cough* Jakob Nielsen *cough*) coupled with raw power. Yes, the site features a huge array of local postings for houses, apartments, cars, friends, jobs, discussion boards and meetings. But the one feature that I've found most appealing, and I feel the main reason for the site's success is the lack of fancy graphics and banner ads. Just lots of pure text and minimal code. Mmmmm, pure text.
I recently found this manifesto entitled Why Craigslist Works, by Craig. It's a fairly straightforward read at only a few pages. And there's even a few interesting bits of insight, nuzzled in between the "we focus on people" cliches I've heard a thousand times in business school.
We take a common sense, honest approach to running the site and running the company. Our site has the "visual appeal of a pipe wrench." ... Back in 1997, I was approached by Microsoft to run banner ads on the site. That didn't really feel right to me, and we've continued to choose not to run banner ads, or any of the other monetization annoyances that you see elsewhere: they're just too distracting and obtrusive.