eBay Inc is the international e-commerce company behind the website eBay.com. eBay.com is an online shopping platform which allows users to buy and sell items in an auction or “Buy It Now” format. eBay has over 90 million active users across the world, making it the world’s largest online marketplace. In 2009, eBay users had sold $60 billion worth of goods meaning that $2,000 had been made every second since the website’s launch in 1995.
eBay was founded in September 1995 by 28-year-old software developer, Pierre Omidyar in his home in San Jose, California as an online marketplace. Omidyar had previously worked with Claris developing software for Apple Inc.
Omidyar was interested in creating a fair online marketplace using the auction format, where the value of an item is determined by the price potential buyers are willing to pay. So Omidyar set to work writing the code that would one day form the world’s largest online marketplace.
The site was originally named AuctionWeb and was hosted on Omidyar’s page on the Ebola virus. The first item to sell was a broken laser pointer which sold for $14.83 to a person who claimed to be a collector of broken laser pointers.
For several years, it was thought that Omidyar created eBay as a way for his fiancée to trade Pez dispensers with other collectors. However in 2002 it came out that this history was fabricated by a PR team who advised Omidyar to recount this history of the site for its romantic value in order to spark media interest.
In 1996 the Feedback Forum was added to AuctionWeb. Originally, Omidyar would handle complaints via e-mail, putting disputing people in touch with each other so they could work it out themselves. He eventually decided that in order to get people to trust one another, he would allow them to bring both complains and praise into the open, where it could be viewed by all users.
Standford MBA degree holder, Jeffrey Skoll joined AuctionWeb in 1996 as the first president of the company. This was also the same year that AuctionWeb struck up its first partnership deal with Electronic Travel Auction to sell plane tickets and hotel rooms.
As the website grew it became obvious that it would need its own domain. In 1997 AuctionWeb became eBay.com. Omidyar first tried to register the website as echobay.com, but after finding out the domain name was already taken, settled on eBay. The name was inspired by Omidyar’s consulting firm Echo Bay Technology.
In 1998, experienced CEO Meg Whitman joined the company as president and Skoll served as vice president. By this time, eBay had a total staff of 30 employees. Over the next 10 years, Whitman’s expertise helped eBay grow into a multinational business which now has around 16,000 employees. During Whitman’s time as CEO of eBay, the company purchased PayPal, Half.com, Skype, Bill Me Later and a 25% stake in CraigsList, an online platform for personal advertisements.
During his time as vice president Skoll convinced the other executives to start the eBay Foundation which funded various charitable projects including work on homeless shelters in the Bay Area. The eBay Foundation continues to fund charitable projects today.
In September, 1998, eBay issued publicly traded stock shares in the company on the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Operations. On the first day, 218 million shares were traded.
In July, 1999, eBay.com crashed for approximately 24 hours. The 400 employees of the company personally called each seller who was affected by the crash and apologised for the inconvenience, gaining eBay a fabourable reputation amongst users.
eBay bought PayPal in 2002 for $1.5 billion which enabled the site to provide a safe and easy payment option to the users.
eBay is still going strong today and according to their website, has over 90 million active users. The website also claims that $2,000 worth of goods is sold every second through the site.
Over the years, many strange and unusual items have appeared for sale on eBay.com. The following is a list of some of these items and their realised prices.
- In 1999, a human kidney appeared on eBay.com. Bids rose to $5,750,100 before eBay officials pulled the listing.
- In October 1999, fingernails of serial killer Roy Norris appeared on eBay.com. They sold for $9.99.
- In 2004, a 10 year old toasted cheese sandwich apparently bearing the image of the Virgin Mary was sold on eBay for $28,000. The buyer was GoldenPalace.com.
- In 2005 Melissa Heuschkel sold the rights to name her baby on eBay. The winning bid was $15,500 from GoldenPalace.com. The baby was named Golden Palace Benedetto.
- In 2007, the window and frame from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy sold on eBay for $3,001,501.
Most expensive items sold on eBay
The most expensive classic car to sell on eBay was a Ferrari Enzo which sold in 2004 for £540,000.
A handbag that belonged to Margaret Thatcher is the most expensive charity item ever sold on eBay. The item of memorabilia sold for £103,000 in July 2000 with the proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Care charity.
In August 2001, a baseball bat used by Shoeless Joe Jackson sold on eBay for $577,610.
The most expensive trading card sold on eBay was a 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card which sold for $1.1 million.
In 2005 a Japanese collector bought a 1880s pair of Levis 501 jeans for $60,000. This is the most expensive item of vintage clothing to sell on the online auction site.
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