A Closer Look at eBay
eBay is one of the great early Internet success stories. It was a time when most websites on the nascent World Wide Web were barebones affairs, designed primarily to either provide information or facilitate conversation. Starting life as AuctionWeb on a $30 a month server, it’s grown to be one of the biggest commerce platforms on the platform, a household name and a place where you can find almost anything. Its story is remarkable, so join us as we repeat it now.
AuctionWeb (later to be known as eBay) found life in the mind of the French born Iranian-American computer programmer Pierre Omidyar during 1995. He’d had the vision of creating a perfect marketplace, one which would offer equal promotion to all products, easy search and a true market determination of price. Its initial incarnation was as part of his larger personal website. One of the very first items sold on that version of AuctionWeb was a broken laser pointer for $14.83. Amazed that somebody would both find and bid on the item, Omidyar reached out to the winning bidder to ask if he understood that the laser pointer was broken, he was met with a reply via email which read “I am a collector of broken laser pointers”.
At this stage, AuctionWeb was little more than a side hobby for Omidyar until he got a letter from his ISP informing him that traffic to his website was so great, he had to pony up for a more expensive hosting service. This sudden price hike meant that AuctionWeb had to start charging a fee for listing items. By 1996, AuctionWeb was growing fast and appointed Jeffrey Skoll as its first president, and signed a licensing deal which means that it could sell plane tickets and other travel products from the website.
Growth was astonishing, to say the least. In Janruary of 1997, the site hosted 2 million auctions, compared to just 250,000 that had been hosted throughout the entirety of 1996. The company moved to a new domain name, ebay.com, and booked $6.7 million in funding from Benchmark Capital. The company went public on the 21st of September, 1998 and both Omidyar and Skoll became billionaires within a few seconds as its share price rose from the target of $18 to $53.50 during the first day of trading.
Ever since, eBay has been an unstoppable growth engine, helping people like you and me buy and sell products and acting as a truly perfect marketplace, just as Omidyar intended it to be.
Head office: 2065 Hamilton Avenue, San Jose, California 95125, USA
Customer services: http://ocsnext.ebay.co.uk/ocs/home