eBay signage

Just about anything can be sold on eBay.com, the eBay Inc.-managed Internet auction and shopping Website established in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar. In fact, the first item sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer. When Omidyar contacted the winning bidder to make sure he understood that the item he had bought was broken, the man e-mailed back yes—that he collected broken laser pointers.

When Omidyar launched eBay.com, then known as AuctionWeb, he was trying to determine how providing equal access to information and opportunities would affect the efficiency of the marketplace. Judging by the satisfaction of the millions of people and businesses that buy and sell goods and services on eBay every day, Omidyar and his company, now based in San Jose and led by CEO and president Meg Whitman, have shown that a level playing field does indeed benefit Internet commerce.

Everything from art to cell phones to coins to collectibles, consumer electronics, dolls and bears, garden equipment, musical instruments, real estate, travel services, and so much more can be listed for sale on eBay.com. Sales take place through either open-bidding auctions or fixed-price “storefronts,” and the company provides sellers with tips on how to make the best sale possible.

eBay signage

eBay Inc. also provides sites and services with which users can make payments, communicate with voice and video, shop, rent housing, and post classified ads.

In 2002, eBay acquired PayPal, an Internet service that enables individuals and businesses to securely and easily send and receive payments online. Using the most advanced proprietary fraud-prevention systems, PayPal’s millions of registered account holders worldwide pay bills and receive funds on and off the eBay site.

In 2005, eBay Inc. also acquired Shopping.com, the pioneering shopping site that offers consumers millions of products from thousand of merchants around the world. eBay Inc. also purchased Rent.com in 2005. This site—the most visited online apartment listing service in the United States—features more than 20,000 properties across the U.S. and provides extensive apartment-related information, including availability, rental rates, and roommate search resources.

To help people share ideas and come together at the local level, eBay Inc. also offers numerous online classifieds Websites in hundred of cities and regions. These sites include Gumtree.com, LoQUo.com, and mobile.de. eBay also has a minority investment in classifieds pioneer craigslist.com.

By providing so many online services and powerful Internet platforms of choice, eBay enables people around the world to explore opportunities and innovate together. The company’s newest features—eBay Express, on which select eBay.com items are mirrored and customers can use a shopping cart to buy from multiple sellers; eBay Blogs and eBay Community Wiki, which provide discussion boards and reviews and guides; and eBay Mobile, which offers text messaging and other mobile services—promise to keep eBay’s passionate community of users communicating and trading for years to come.

This history was written in 2008 by the Silicon Valley Historical Association.

eBay website