Vol.1, No.5

The history of ebay

Learn how eBay began as a small business in someone's living room and grew into one of the top earning Websites on the Internet.

Online auction gavel
Photo Credit: Stefan Klein
There aren't many sites on the Internet that can claim the success that eBay has enjoyed. The company began in the home of Pierre Omidyar is 1995 and is now a leader in Internet revenue. This company began as something like an online garage sale in 1995 and has enjoyed steady growth over the years. Items on eBay are listed by categories and anyone with an eBay account can bid on the item of their choice. You can find just about anything you can possibly imagine on eBay, including cars, real estate, collectibles, concert tickets, CDs, clothing, DVDs, and artwork. Rare items can sell at very high prices. Things such as Elvis Presley's ashtray or rare baseball trading cards go for top dollar. When you list an item for auction on eBay it can be seen by millions of people all over the world.

Mr. Omidyar started eBay from his home in 1995. The first name eBay used was Echo Bay Technology. When the company tried to register the domain name echobay.com, they found that it was already in use. They shortened the name to eBay.com and the Website was born. Jeff Skoll was the co-founder of this company and Harvard Business School graduate Meg Whitman joined them in 1998. The early emphasis on eBay was the customer. The very nature of online auctions required that strangers trust each other. Along with growth as a site for buying and selling, eBay worked hard to make their Website a community.

In September of 1998 eBay has its initial public stock offering. Then in April of1999, the company bought the auction house Butterfield and Butterfield for an astounding price of 260 million dollars. In June of 1999 eBay.com went down for almost twenty-four hours. The company's 400 employees took the time to personally call the individual sellers who were affected by this crash and apologize for the downtime and the inconvenience it posed to them. This made eBay a hit with the many users who frequented the site and gave the company a very favorable outlook.

The company had some interesting auctions happen that include a human kidney that was put up for auction in August of 1999. The bids for this auction soared to over five million dollars before eBay intervened and pull the listing. Then in July of 2000, a rare baseball card sold for 1.2 million dollars. This was the highest paying auction in eBay's history up until that point. December of 2000 saw eBay beginning to self-monitor sales for copyrighted materials. In February of 2001 an item even stranger than the kidney was put up for public auction. A man from Seattle sold his "soul" for 400 dollars before eBay could intervene and stop the auction. In May of 2001 eBay decided to ban the sale of any item related to crime including letters from murders, crime scene memorabilia, and seats to view executions.

Though the first things sold on eBay were collectibles and home items, the company branched out to higher profile sellers like Disney and GM. These companies sell items in the same manner as the individual sellers. The eBay community was resistant to these changes at first but soon grew accustomed to the presence of big business hosting auctions.

The Website Half.com was bought by eBay in 2000 and fully integrated into eBay's web community in 2001. Half.com allows users to buy and sell items at lower rates much like eBay but without the auction feature. In October of 2002 eBay acquired Paypal Inc. for 1.5 billion dollars. Paypal is the preferred way of making payments for eBay auctions and is growing in popularity for other Internet uses. Paypal allows a person to send or receive money via an email address. Money in a Paypal account can be spent on the Internet, sent by check to the account owner, or deposited into a bank account. Paypal also offers credit cards, debit cards, and a bill paying function.

The future of eBay looks bright. They enjoy continued growth through their many companies and ventures. By the year 2004 eBay had earned 3.3 billion dollars in revenue. Over 135 million people worldwide use eBay. The company hopes to further expand operations worldwide and possibly incorporate audio and video into the auction pages. This company takes pride in understanding what the customer wants to happen with their company. The "Voice of the Customer" was born in 1999. This venture brings up to a dozen loyal customers together with the company to discuss what is and what is not working on eBay. With this kind of interaction with customers and attention to detail, eBay should be around for a long time to come.



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