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Lingel, Jessa

An Internet for the People

The Politics and Promise of craigslist

Series:Princeton Studies in Culture and Technology 26


    48,95 € / $56.25 / £44.00*

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    February 2020
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    Aims and Scope

    How craigslist champions openness, democracy, and other vanishing principles of the early web

    Begun by Craig Newmark as an e-mail to some friends about cool events happening around San Francisco, craigslist is now the leading classifieds service on the planet. It is also a throwback to the early internet. The website has barely seen an upgrade since it launched in 1996. There are no banner ads. The company doesn't profit off your data. An Internet for the People explores how people use craigslist to buy and sell, find work, and find love—and reveals why craigslist is becoming a lonely outpost in an increasingly corporatized web.

    Drawing on interviews with craigslist insiders and ordinary users, Jessa Lingel looks at the site's history and values, showing how it has mostly stayed the same while the web around it has become more commercial and far less open. She examines craigslist's legal history, describing the company's courtroom battles over issues of freedom of expression and data privacy, and explains the importance of locality in the social relationships fostered by the site. More than an online garage sale, job board, or dating site, craigslist hold vital lessons for the rest of the web. It is a website that values user privacy over profits, ease of use over slick design, and an ethos of the early web that might just hold the key to a more open, transparent, and democratic internet.


    6 b/w illus.
    Professional and scholarly;College/higher education;

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    Jessa Lingel is assistant professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Digital Countercultures and the Struggle for Community. She lives in Philadelphia.


    "To understand contemporary fears, anxieties, and fantasies about the internet, people need to understand craigslist, a site that embodies a set of 1990s values about the internet that seem alien today. In An Internet for the People, Jessa Lingel offers a rich examination of craigslist, including both its strengths and flaws. This insightful book connects the past to the present in order to inform those who care about the future."—danah boyd, author of It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

    "Lingel astutely reveals the visions and values at the heart of an influential yet understudied platform that has pursued a different path than the data-aggregating, advertising-oriented giants that get almost all the attention these days. The book will change how we think about internet platforms in general."—Thomas Streeter, author of The Net Effect: Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet

    "Lingel fills a gap in current scholarship by providing both a historical and ethnographic account of craigslist, a site that has attained almost mythological status in the popular history of the web. This comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and lucid book is a model for how internet research should be done."—Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy

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