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eBay is an online auction and shopping site that allows its users to buy and sell a wide range of goods and services. Since its launch in 1995, the company has vastly expanded its operations in size and scope, facilitating localized auctions in more than 30 countries as of June 2013.
eBay was first conceived as AuctionWeb (shown below) on September 5th, 1995 by computer programmer Pierre Omidyar as part of the homepage for his consulting firm Echo Bay. After making a humorous listing for a broken laser pointer as a test, it sold for $14.83 to a person collecting broken lasers. AuctionWeb quickly became popular and after Omidyar had to upgrade his personal website to a business space, he began charging fees for users selling their items on the site. By 1996, Omidyar hired his first employee as well as a company president. That November, eBay mentions began appearing in the tech news blogosphere, with news of airline tickets being sold on the site. The following month, AuctionWeb was named as a solution for getting rid of unwanted holiday presents.
In January 1997, AuctionWeb hosted 2,000,000 auctions, an 800% increase from 1996’s total of 250,000 auctions. The next month, Cnet published an article about the popularity of AuctionWeb, citing that the site generates more than $3 million worth of sales per month. The first About.com guide to eBay transactions was posted on April 29th, 1997. That September, on the second anniversary of the site’s launch, the company officially changed the name of its auction services to eBay (shown below). Also in 1997, the company sold its 1 millionth item while serving 3 million daily page views for items in 371 different categories.
On September 23rd, 1998, eBay joined the stock market with an initial public offering (IPO) of $18 per share. They closed at $47.375, up 163% from its opening price. With 3.5 million shares sold, the company raised more than $63 million that day and within two quarters, the stock grew 1000%. In 1998, eBay also began acquiring other online auction and classified advertising companies, accruing 42 as of June 2013. By the end of 2000, eBay was serving 22 million registered users from seven different countries. The same year, the site introduced the “Buy It Now” option, allowing users to skip the auction in order to purchase an item from a seller. In June 2006, the eBay Wiki launched, described as the world’s largest commercial wiki. However, it was taken down by 2008.
eBay offers free accounts for people looking to bid on or purchase items. Sellers can list a certain number of items for free per month, based on the type of account. eBay also calculates a fee based on the final selling price of the item. As of June 2013, there are 35 high-level categories which are each broken down into dozens of more specific sections.
The P-P-P-Powerbook was a fake Apple laptop computer created with a binder by Something Awful forum member Jeff Harris in retaliation to an eBay scammer in 2006. After Harris realized the person who had won the auction for his 19-day-old Powerbook, he enlisted the help of other Something Awful users to scam the buyer.
The Seven-Legged Spider was a drawing completed by David Thorne as part of an October 2008 prank in which he attempted to use the drawing to pay his overdue utility bills. After the post documenting his prank went viral, Thorne attempted to sell the drawing on eBay for $10,000. Though a winning bid was made for $15,000, bidder Patrick Munoz declared he had no intention of actually paying for the drawing.
The Beyblades eBay Auction was set up as a punishment for two young children on February 5th, 2011 after they had destroyed their parents’ bathtub with the toys. The photo that accompanied the listing depicted one of the children crying while the other held up a plastic bag containing the metal Beyblades. The link was shared on a number of gaming sites before it ended up on 4chan where users began to photoshop other items into the Beyblades bag. Within 24 hours, the auction page had been viewed more than 200,000 times. The next day, the auction was removed from eBay after a number of fake bids. The owner chose not to relist the item after receiving a number of harassing emails.
Princess Beatrice’s Royal Wedding Hat
Princess Beatrice’s Royal Wedding Hat had already been the subject of a photoshop meme immediately after the British royal wedding in April 2011. The following month, the unique hat designed by Philip Treacy was auctioned off to raise money for charity, with the proceeds split between Unicef and Children in Crisis. The auction ended on May 22nd, raising US $131,341.47.
HP Touchpad Drawing Auction
After HP dropped the price of their Touchpad tablets from $399 to $99, a Greenfield, Ohio resident placed a hand-drawn HP Touchpad up for auction beginning at $0.99. Within an hour, the auction was viewed more than 5,000 times and other eBayers began to put their own Touchpad drawings up for auction. As bids creeped up to $100,000, the item was the most-watched auction in the Art category, with more than 900 users monitoring its status. Three days before the auction was due to close, eBay removed the listing for violating the site’s terms and conditions.
The Stoned Fox (Упоротая лиса) is a Russian photoshop meme that began with an eBay auction for an anthropomorphic stuffed fox. In October 2012, British artist and taxidermist Adele Morse sold the fox on eBay for 330 pounds. Several days after the auction ended, she began receiving messages from Russian fans in appreciation of the fox. The next month, she learned the animal had become popular on the Russian web, where people began photoshopping it into well-known movie scenes and other images.
Guinea Pig Armor
In June 2012, Sean McCoy decided to auction off handmade Guinea Pig Armor after his pet Lucky passed away to raise funds for the Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue of Virginia. The armor, originally listed at $5, began to gain attention after an image of Lucky from the auction was shared on the /r/Funny subreddit. The photo gained more than 9,200 upvotes and 2,700 points overall within four days, causing a number of news sites including the Huffington Post and CNN to feature the story. As of June 18th, the auction has a high bid of $15,100 and is set to end on June 21st.
As of June 2013, eBay has an Alexa rank of 21 in the world and 7 in the United States. According to Quantcast, eBay serves 85.8 million unique visitors monthly and is also ranked #7 in the US. In the first quarter of 2013, eBay served 116 million users, selling $3.5 billion worth of items listed as clothing, shoes, health and beauty, accessories and jewelery, $4 billion in electronics and video games, $2.7 billion in home and garden items and $1.7 billion in vehicles.