Introduction

Since its founding in 1995, eBay has changed the way the world shops. The online auction site has more than 114 million active users (affectionately known as “eBayers”) who buy and sell just about everything imaginable—from antiques and collectibles to cars, homes, boats, cameras, jewelry, crafts, and even airplanes. Indeed, the site recorded a record 1.4 billion listings and more than 40 percent of all eBayers closed an actual sale on the site in the past year. All told, eBay users sold a record $34.2 billion worth of goods in 2004, a figure that has been growing by about 45 percent a year. People spend more time on eBay than any other online site, making it the most popular shopping destination on the World Wide Web.

The company has come a long way since Pierre Omidyar, a young Silicon Valley computer programmer, spent one Labor Day weekend holed up in his home office writing computer code for what would eventually become the backbone of eBay. Omidyar’s goal was to create an efficient and fair marketplace where buyers and sellers—and pure and simple supply and demand—would determine the true value of goods.

In its early years, eBay had a reputation of being a virtual flea market—a place to find mostly old used items. The company has grown up since then. Omidyar, now a billionaire several times over, has seen his idea spawn thousands of new businesses, including many that sell their wares exclusively on eBay.

While millions log on to eBay to sell single items they ...

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