eBay: The First 10 Years
Yes, you read that correctly: ten years. eBay was created in
September 1995, by a man called Pierre Omidyar, who was living in
San Jose. He wanted his site – then called ‘AuctionWeb’ – to be an
online marketplace, and wrote the first code for it in one weekend.
It was one of the first websites of its kind in the world. The name
‘eBay’ comes from the domain Omidyar used for his site. His
company’s name was Echo Bay, and the ‘eBay AuctionWeb’ was
originally just one part of Echo Bay’s website at ebay.com. The
first thing ever sold on the site was Omidyar’s broken laser
pointer, which he got $14 for.
The site quickly became massively popular, as sellers came to list
all sorts of odd things and buyers actually bought them. Relying on
trust seemed to work remarkably well, and meant that the site could
almost be left alone to run itself. The site had been designed from
the start to collect a small fee on each sale, and it was this money
that Omidyar used to pay for AuctionWeb’s expansion. The fees
quickly added up to more than his current salary, and so he decided
to quit his job and work on the site full-time. It was at this
point, in 1996, that he added the feedback facilities, to let buyers
and sellers rate each other and make buying and selling safer.
In 1997, Omidyar changed AuctionWeb’s – and his company’s – name to
‘eBay’, which is what people had been calling the site for a long
time. He began to spend a lot of money on advertising, and had the
eBay logo designed. It was in this year that the one-millionth item
was sold (it was a toy version of Big Bird from Sesame Street).
Then, in 1998 – the peak of the dotcom boom – eBay became big
business, and the investment in Internet businesses at the time
allowed it to bring in senior managers and business strategists, who
took in public on the stock market. It started to encourage people
to sell more than just collectibles, and quickly became a massive
site where you could sell anything, large or small. Unlike other
sites, though, eBay survived the end of the boom, and is still going
1999 saw eBay go worldwide, launching sites in the UK, Australia and
Germany. eBay bought half.com, an Amazon-like online retailer, in
the year 2000 – the same year it introduced Buy it Now – and bought
PayPal, an online payment service, in 2002.
Pierre Omidyar has now earned an estimated $3 billion from eBay, and
still serves as Chairman of the Board. Oddly enough, he keeps a
personal weblog at http://pierre.typepad.com. There are now
literally millions of items bought and sold every day on eBay, all
over the world. For every $100 spent online worldwide, it is
estimated that $14 is spent on eBay – that’s a lot of laser
Now that you know the history of eBay, perhaps you’d like to know
how it could work for you? Read the next article.