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eBay, the auction’s jungle

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EBay_logoMillions of collectibles, appliances, computers, furniture, equipment, vehicles, and other miscellaneous items are listed, bought, and sold daily. Some items are rare and valuable, while many others are dusty gizmos that would have been discarded if not for the thousands of eager bidders worldwide, proving that if one has a big enough market, one will find someone willing to buy anything.

Anything can be sold as long as it is not illegal or on the eBay banned list.

eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) manages an online auction and shopping website, where people buy and sell goods and services worldwide.

Services and intangibles can be sold too. It is fair to say that eBay has revolutionized the collectibles market by bringing together buyers and sellers internationally in a huge, never-ending yard sale and auction. Large international companies, such as IBM, sell their newest products and offer services on eBay using competitive auctions and fixed-priced storefronts. Regional searches of the database make shipping slightly more rapid or cheaper. Software developers can create applications that integrate with eBay through the eBay API by joining the eBay Developers Program. There were over thousands of members in the eBay Developers Program, comprising a broad range of companies creating software applications to support eBay buyers and sellers as well as eBay Affiliates.

In June 2004, eBay prohibited the sale and auction of both alcohol and tobacco products on the British site ebay.co.uk. Some exceptions to this rule are made for rare aged liquors, where a bottle may sell for many times higher than its actual value in alcohol.

There has also been controversy regarding items put up for bid that violate ethical standards. In late 1999 a man offered one of his kidneys for auction on eBay, attempting to profit from the potentially lucrative (and, in the United States, illegal) market for transplantable human organs. On other occasions, people and even entire towns have been listed, often as a joke. In general, the company removes auctions that violate its terms of service agreement within a short time after hearing of the auction from an outsider; the company’s policy is to not pre-approve transactions. eBay is also an easy place for unscrupulous sellers to market counterfeit merchandise, which can be difficult for novice buyers to distinguish without careful study of the auction description.

eBay’s main rivals are Amazon.com Marketplace and Yahoo.com Auction.

Origins and early history

Founded in San Jose on September 4, 1995 by Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Skoll as Auctionweb, part of a larger personal site that included, among other things, Omidyar’s own tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Ebola virus.

The first item sold was Omidyar’s broken laser pointer for $14.83. Astonished, he contacted the winning bidder and asked, “did he not understand the laser pointer was broken?” Omidyar received the following email in reply: “I’m a collector of broken laser pointers.” (The frequently repeated story that eBay was founded to help Omidyar’s fiancee trade PEZ Candy dispensers was fabricated by a public relations manager in 1997 to interest the media. This was revealed in Adam Cohen’s 2002 book and confirmed by eBay.)

It officially changed its name 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.

Licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses materials from the Wikipedia.

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