eBay is one of the largest and most well-known online marketplaces in the world today, but the company actually started out much more modestly in 1995. Originally, eBay was designed as an auction site focused mainly on collectibles rather than the vast array of goods that it offers today.
eBay was founded in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar as AuctionWeb. Omidyar had previously launched an online venture called General Magic and wanted to try creating an online marketplace next. The original idea for AuctionWeb was to enable people to sell collectibles and other hard-to-find items through an auction format.
Omidyar was inspired to create the site after his girlfriend (now wife) wanted to sell some Pez candy dispensers online but couldn’t find any existing forums dedicated to this purpose. This made Omidyar realize that a marketplace focused specifically on auctions could fill this gap. He spent a few months developing the code in his spare time before AuctionWeb officially launched in September 1995.
What Did eBay Originally Sell?
In the early days of AuctionWeb, the site was focused entirely on facilitating auctions for collectible items. Some of the most commonly listed items on eBay at that time included:
- Pez dispensers
- Beanie Babies
- Baseball cards
- Comic books
- Vintage jewelry
Most of the earliest sellers were individuals seeking to make some extra money by auctioning off collectibles and other rare items from their homes. The site quickly gained popularity in online collectible communities as it provided a new platform for buyers and sellers of hard-to-find goods.
Growth of eBay
Within a few months of launching, AuctionWeb was hosting thousands of auctions and generating significant sales. Omidyar soon brought in some of his former General Magic colleagues like Jeff Skoll to help develop the site and manage its rapid expansion.
By 1997, the site had over 250,000 registered users and was renamed eBay, a shortened version of Echo Bay which was Omidyar’s original company name idea. Over the next few years, eBay continued to expand its user base and product categories:
|– Renamed AuctionWeb to eBay
– Reached 250,000 users
|– Expanded to include buy-it-now listings
– Launched eBay Motors to sell vehicles
|– Listed on NASDAQ
– Reached 2.1 million users
|– Launched eBay Stores
– Acquired Half.com marketplace
By expanding beyond just auctions and adding new categories like cars, electronics, fashion and more, eBay rapidly evolved from a collectibles site into a major e-commerce marketplace.
Although eBay today features a huge array of goods for sale, the site started out in 1995 as solely an online auction marketplace for collectibles. Some of eBay’s most commonly sold items in its early years included things like Pez dispensers, Beanie Babies, baseball cards and antique jewelry. The site quickly took off, reaching millions of users within a few years. eBay then began expanding into other retail categories, moving beyond its roots as a collectibles auction site to become the diverse e-commerce leader it is today.