The History Of Ebay


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Surely there is no one in America who does not know about Ebay. After all, it is /the/ auction site for all your sister’s junk. With millions of buyers and sellers worldwide, Ebay is the largest auction site on the web.
The original ebay is from America, but there are localized Ebay websites in thirty other countries, ranging from India to Australia. Surprisingly, nearly half of these ‘extra’ ebays are in English, even the ones for countries such as Iran and Malaysia.

Pierre Omidyar first created Ebay in his living room in San Jose, California, in September of 1995. Originally, Ebay was called AuctionWeb and was a part of a larger personal site. The name was changed to Ebay two years later. Omidyar’s consulting firm at the time was Echo Bay Technology Group, and Omidyar wanted to name the auction site Echobay. However, that name was already taken by a goldmining company. So he resorted to Ebay. The very first item sold on ebay was a broken laser pointer. Yes, a broken laser pointer, which went for $14.98. Omidyar could not believe it either, so he contacted the winning bidder to ask that they did understand that the pointer was broken. The reply was ‘I collect broken laser pointers’. That is when Omidyar realized exactly what he had started.

It wasn’t long before AuctionWeb, now Ebay, took over Omidyar’s entire web domain. In 1996 Ebay was large enough that it needed a president. Jeffery Skoll, Stanford MBA, was elected. Soon after, Ebay began branching out from just collectables to nearly every other sellable item. The auction website was so popular that when Ebay went public on September 21, 1998, Omidyar and Skoll were already billionaires.

Ebay has grown quite a bit since that first broken laser pointer. Now anything and everything can be sold there, provided it is not illegal in the country it is being sold in or violates Ebay’s restricted and prohibited substances policy. Though most sellers are individuals just wanting to get rid of the junk in their garages, many large companies use Ebay to either sell their services or extra inventory. Businesses often set up ‘stores’ on the Ebay site and sell their services, such as computer programs and installation.

Since Ebay is such a large website, and has so many buyers and sellers each day, it needed a safe way to insure payments. To help prevent scams, nearly all Ebay transactions are through PayPal. Paypal works because the buyer must put money into an account to purchase something, then the money is subtracted from the account and ‘held’ until the buyer affirms that the seller did send the proper item. After that, the money is transferred to the seller’s account and the transaction is finished. In a shrewed move, Ebay bought PayPal in 2002, which meant that Ebay itself received the fees not just from the Ebay sales but from the PayPal transactions as well. No wonder Ebay’s profits have grown so quickly. Ebay also owns Skype, Kijiji, and other businesses.

Ebay has only been around for fourteen years, but everything from cornflakes (singly or in boxes) to fighter jets (some even in working order) has been posted on the site at one point or another. For your amusement, here are some of the more interesting things—

In February 2004, a scrapped F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet was listed on eBay by Mike Landa, of Landa and Associates, with a starting bid of $1,000,000. He was the legal owner of the plane after purchasing it from a scrap yard and also offered to have the plane restored for flying condition for a Buy It Now price of $9,000,000. Landa also told potential buyers that maintenance of the plane would cost roughly $40,000 a month for just 2 to 3 hours of flying time. The FBI told Landa that he could only sell the plane to an American citizen residing in the United States, and that the plane must not leave US airspace. The auction ended without a sale

A man from Brisbane, Australia, attempted to sell New Zealand at a starting price of $.01AUD. The price had risen to $3,000 before eBay closed the auction

A Coventry University student got £1.20 for a single cornflake. (And you thought Iwas kidding)

Bridgeville, California (pop. 25) was the first town to be sold on eBay in 2002, and has been up for sale 3 times since

In 2004, a partially eaten, 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich said to bear the image of the Virgin Mary sold on eBay for $28,000

In October 2008, amidst the 2008–2009 Icelandic financial crisis one seller had put up Iceland for sale. Auction started with 99 pence but had reached 10 million pounds (US $17.28 million). However, singer Björk was "not included" in the sale. The notice read Located in the mid-Atlantic ridge in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland will provide the winning bidder with — a habitable environment, Icelandic Horses and admittedly a somewhat sketchy financial situation. Bidders' questions included: "Do you offer volcano/earthquake insurance?"

And one I found myself: Snowballs from Alaska, shipped FedEx Overnight, priced at $30. The shipping was another $80.

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