April 4, 2007

ChangeLog: Craigslist's Buckmaster on open source and being the CEO

Author: Peter Galli

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster prefers open source, but isn't averse to a good proprietary product when it makes sense. The former programmer, who was promoted to CTO within a few months of being hired and then became CEO after he "started doing a lot of management tasks unrelated to technology," says that as Craigslist grew, it experienced challenges with load balancing that were directly related to open source software."Generally speaking, we would certainly recommend open source software. It's more customizable, there's superior security and reliability," Buckmaster says. But Craigslist turned to some proprietary software as the visitor count climbed. "It was becoming too laborious to get high volume throughput," he says. "We were using pure open source and I think as our traffic continued to mount, they had difficulty maintaining performance. We got tired of managing that in a home-grown fashion and preferred to invest a significant amount of money in getting help from a vendor," he says. "That was an area where open source equivalents were not as well-developed or robust, compared to what was available in a proprietary system." Buckmaster says he settled on F5 Networks' Big-IP because he liked the support options.

Regarding his rise to the top at Craigslist, Buckmaster seems subscribed to the "it's a tough job but somebody has to do it" philosophy. "I still do tech but not nearly as much as I used to. That's more fun and more creative. I guess I prefer that as compared to management tasks." So why be CEO? "It felt preferable to the other alternatives as to how the company might be managed."

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