The online auction Web site was founded in San Jose, California, by French-born Iranian computer programmer Pierre Omidyar on 3rd September 1995.

Originally the site was called AuctionWeb and was registered to Omidyar’s consulting business, Echo Bay Technology Group.  In 1997 Benchmark Capital offered $5 million in funding to develop the online auction idea and Omidyar tried to register the domain echobay.com. However this was already owned by Echo Bay Mines, a gold mining company, so he shortened it to eBay.com.

The very first item sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer for $14.83. Astonished, Omidyar emailed the winning bidder to ask if he understood that the laser pointer was broken. In his response the buyer explained: “I’m a collector of broken laser pointers.”

eBay went public on September 21, 1998, and Omidyar became an instant billionaire. The company purchased PayPal in 2002 and by acquisition and expansion it has become the monolithic and monopolistic international giant it is today.

Has it become too powerful? Many people would say yes, and a quick Google search will throw up sites and blogs where sellers, in particular, voice their outrage at the company’s arrogance and dictatorial business methods.

As yet, however, there is no realistic alternative where sellers can go and so the attitude of “if you don’t like the way we do business, tough” is unlikely to change.

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