EBay Inc. (EE-bay, stylized as ebay) is a multinational e-commerce corporation, facilitating online consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales. It is headquartered in San Jose, California. eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar in 1995, and became a notable success story of the dot-com bubble. Today it is a multibillion-dollar business with operations in about 30 countries.
The company manages eBay.com, an online auction and shopping website in which people and businesses buy and sell a broad variety of goods and services worldwide. In addition to its auction-style sales, the website has since expanded to include "Buy It Now" shopping; shopping by UPC, ISBN, or other kind of SKU number (via Half.com); online classified advertisements (via Kijiji or eBay Classifieds); online event ticket trading (via StubHub); and other services. It previously offered online money transfers (via PayPal, which was a wholly owned subsidiary of eBay from 2002 until 2015). The website is free to use for buyers, but sellers are charged fees for listing items and again when those items are sold.
The AuctionWeb was founded in California on September 3, 1995, by French-born Iranian-American computer programmer Pierre Omidyar as part of a larger personal site.One of the first items sold on AuctionWeb was a broken laser pointer for $14.83. Astonished, Omidyar contacted the winning bidder to ask if he understood that the laser pointer was broken. In his responding email, the buyer explained: "I'm a collector of broken laser pointers."
The frequently repeated story that eBay was founded to help Omidyar's fiancée trade Pez candy dispensers was fabricated by a public relations manager, Mary Lou Song, in 1997 to interest the media, which were not interested in the company's previous explanation about wanting to create a "perfect market".This was revealed in Adam Cohen's book, The Perfect Store (2002), and confirmed by eBay.
Reportedly, eBay was simply a side hobby for Omidyar until his Internet service provider informed him he would need to upgrade to a business account due to the high volume of traffic to his website. The resulting price increase (from $30/month to $250) forced him to start charging those who used eBay, and was not met with any animosity. It resulted in the hiring of Chris Agarpao as eBay's first additional employee to handle the number of checks coming in for fees.
Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman of eBay
Jeffrey Skoll was hired as the first new president of the company in early 1996. In November 1996, eBay entered into its first third-party licensing deal, with a company called Electronic Travel Auction to use SmartMarket Technology to sell plane tickets and other travel products. Growth was phenomenal; in January 1997 the site hosted 2,000,000 auctions, compared with 250,000 during the whole of 1996.
The company officially changed the name of its service from AuctionWeb to eBay in September 1997. Originally, the site belonged to Echo Bay Technology Group, Omidyar's consulting firm. Omidyar had tried to register the domain name echobay.com, but found it already taken by the Echo Bay Mines, a gold mining company, so he shortened it to his second choice, eBay.com.
In 1997, the company received $6.7 million in funding from the venture capital firm Benchmark Capital.
Meg Whitman was hired as eBay President and CEO in March 1998. At the time, the company had 30 employees, half a million users and revenues of $4.7 million in the United States.
eBay went public on September 21, 1998, and both Omidyar and Skoll became instant billionaires. eBay's target share price of $18 was all but ignored as the price went to $53.50 on the first day of trading.
As the company expanded product categories beyond collectibles into almost any saleable item, business grew quickly. In February 2002 the company purchased iBazar, a similar European auction web site founded in 1998, and then bought PayPal on October 3, 2002.
By early 2008 the company had expanded worldwide, counted hundreds of millions of registered users, 15,000+ employees and revenues of almost $7.7 billion. After nearly ten years at eBay, Whitman decided to enter politics. On January 23, 2008, the company announced that Whitman would step down on March 31, 2008, and John Donahoe was selected to become President and CEO. Whitman remained on the Board of Directors and continued to advise Donahoe through 2008. In late 2009, eBay completed the sale of Skype for $2.75 billion, but will still own 30% equity in the company.
In 2012, eBay was charged by the United States Department of Justice with entering into non-solicitation agreements with other technology companies involving their highly skilled employees.
On September 30, 2014, eBay announced it would spinoff PayPal into a separate publicly traded company, a demand made nine months prior by activist hedge fund magnate Carl Icahn. The spinoff completed on July 18, 2015. eBay’s then chief executive, John Donahoe, stepped down from that role.
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