Successful Online Selling

The EBay Story

story of ebayThe eBay story has been around since the site showed its first signs of becoming a major player in online selling. It has been told numerous times but still, many people don’t know how the giant auction website became what it is today. So for those who don’t know it, here’s the eBay story.

Far from the glamour and pomp that typifies the launches and instant, almost unexpected success of today’s internet startups, eBay’s was the most humble of beginnings.

Software developer Pierre Omidyar, then only 28, started writing code for a project that would later become eBay in September 1995. The project was an auction-style market place and the code he wrote was supposed to run it.

Pierre’s original creation was named AuctionWeb and its very first auction listing was a broken laser pointer. At about the same time, Pierre was running a web page containing information about the Ebola virus, which he hosted on the same server as his new creation.

Pierre was just dabbling in web auctioning when he listed his broken laser pointer, but was taken aback when a collector offered $14.83 for the pointer. That’s the point when he realized the potential of what he had just created.

Pierre’s ‘experiment’ was largely driven by his passion and ideals that he envisioned. He was a strong believer in a free market, and envisaged a market place where buyers would be able to bid an item’s price up if it had huge demand, or buy it at a low price it there was no demand.

ebay onlineOriginally, AuctionWeb was a basic auction website with a very simple interface comprising block letters and a grey background. There were no more than four functionalities – including listing an item, viewing the item, and bidding on the item. However, despite its simplistic nature, the auction site soon caught people’s attention because of the way it allowed them to buy and sell items.

It was mostly a handful of collectors that initially became fascinated with AuctionWeb, and in its first few months, the site only managed a few thousand auctions. One thing that Pierre really did well in those early days (besides creating the website) was to aggressively market his new creation. He posted information about AuctionWeb on various websites and talked about it whenever he had the chance.

Further, in order to win people’s trust – particularly the skeptics – Pierre set about to advertise the ethical values on which his online auction place operated, the values he believed would sustain the core of his business. Central to these values was trust between buyers and sellers.

By the end of October 1996, Pierre had left his full-time job to focus on building his budding business, which was by now turning a small profit. In the same year, Jeff Skoll joined Pierre as AuctionWeb’s first employee. Business was now picking fast and there was rapid expansion, both in terms of web traffic and employees. A number of new hires were made between October 1996 and September 1997, when the site was renamed eBay.

EBay went public the following year – 1998 – and consequently, Both Pierre and Jeff Skoll became billionaires overnight. The auction website continued to grow throughout the 2000s and is now the largest auction website with over 100 million users as of 2010.



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