10 eBay Facts You Might Not Know

eBay, the world’s largest marketplace, has hundreds of millions of listings live at any given moment. It was founded in 1995, the company has grown from just one curious computer programmer to over 15,000 employees. It has now become one of the most recognized brands around the world.

In this article, we will take a deeper look at the history behind eBay and some of the most entertaining facts about the company that you might not know.

1. eBay was Originally Called AuctionWeb

This screenshot is the earliest example of the AuctionWeb homepage, circa March 1997, but the basic design did not change from May 1996 to September 1997.

The site we now know as eBay was launched during Labor Day weekend in 1995 as “AuctionWeb”, by entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar in his living room in San Jose, California.

The decision to change the name from AuctionWeb to eBay was made by Omidyar and Jeffrey Skoll, eBay’s first full-time employee and president, in mid-1997. The change was spurred by the fact that most customers referred to the site as “eBay,” and the initial media coverage also used “eBay” more than “AuctionWeb”.

So, where did “eBay” actually come from? Long before AuctionWeb existed, Omidyar went to Sacramento to register the domain echobay.com for his planned business name Echo Bay Inc., but it was taken. He came up with “eBay” on the spot and registered it instead.

2. The First AuctionWeb Logo Was Called the “Death Bar”

The logo of eBay “evolves” for several times. Before 1997, the eBay logo was in dull colour (black and navy blue), the employees of eBay even thought the logo was “old” (can you imagine?)

Luckily, in 1997, the company hired CKS Group, an ad agency owned by Bill Cleary, Mark Kvamme, and Tom Suiter (all three of whom had previously worked at Apple Computers), to revamp their corporate identity, including visual imagery, typography, the website, and recommendations on advertising. Inspired by the visual imagery behind Eastman Kodak and Apple, among other brands, Cleary and his team created a logo that would appeal to the masses. The final result was the multi-colored logo spelled e-b-a-Y in overlapping letters with baseline shifts. The logo was chosen out of five or six other designs and had the “friendly, open and accessible” personality that the eBay team was looking for.

eBay in 2003

3. The First Item Listed on eBay was a Broken Laser Pointer

On Labor Day weekend in 1995, computer programmer Omidyar wrote the code for what he called 
an “experiment.” He wanted to know what would happen if everyone in the world had access to a single global marketplace. To test his idea, he came up with an auction website, where he listed a broken laser pointer that he was going to throw away. In the end, a collector bought it for $14.83 (Interesting, who will buy a broken laser pointer?)

4. The eBay HQ Building Names Reflect Categories on eBay

Not many know this, I think, except their employees. There are seven buildings at eBay’s headquarters in San Jose, California, and they are all named after categories on eBay.com: Collectibles, Jewelry, Motors, Music, Sports, Technology and Toys.

All of the conference rooms are named according to the corresponding building theme. For example, in the Motors building, rooms are named after type of cars, and in the Music building, rooms are take the names of various musical instruments.

5. Jack Sheng Was the First to Reach a Feedback Score of One Million

As of November 13, 2008, Jack Sheng was the first eBay seller to receive a Feedback score of one million. He currently has a score of over two million. It took Sheng eight years to earn a Feedback score of one million, but it only took him 18 months thereafter to reach two million.

To congratulate Sheng, the eBay staff created a special “Shooting Star” for his seller profile and named a conference room after him. Nice setup, Sheng!

6. Fixed-Price Format Trumps Auction Format

For over a year, fixed-price format (Buy it Now) has accounted for a majority of merchandise volume. Approximately 59% of sales during the second quarter of 2010 were purchased via the “Buy It Now” feature.

7. You Can Adopt a Pet on eBay Classifieds

Looking for a pet? Check out eBay Classifieds (formerly Kijiji); it’s a local listing site that is free of charge and open to everyone. Pets are among the most popular listings. Dogs are the pet of choice, with the most popular canine searches being Yorkie, Chihuahua, Boxer, English Bulldog and Pitbull. And for the feline fanatics, the most popular cat breeds searched are Persian, Siamese and Bengal. With Petfinder as a partner, over two-thirds of pet listings are from shelters, so you know you’ll be giving a deserving puppy or kitty a new, happy home.

8. Mobile is Used for Big Ticket Purchases

Looking at mobile behavior on eBay’s apps, we can see that mobile commerce is an increasingly important focus for the company. One item is purchased every two seconds using eBay mobile apps, and in 2009, eBay users bought $600 million of merchandise using their mobile phones. On the last earnings call, eBay CEO John Donahoe predicted that number will nearly triple this year to $1.5 billion.

It’s no wonder that mobile is such a focus for the company. Users are shelling out big bucks on their mobile phones. So far in 2010, the most expensive item sold via eBay’s mobile app was a 1985 Piper PA-46-310P Malibu airplane for $265,000. The transaction was successful and resulted in the exchange of positive Feedback.

Another big ticket item bought via the eBay app this year was a 2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder for $139,000. So far this year, it’s the most expensive car bought via eBay’s mobile app.

An exciting addition to the eBay app roster that will make mobile shopping even easier is Red Laser, a popular iPhone app that scans barcodes in stores, and returns the best prices for the same item online and at other stores. eBay recently acquired the app and will soon integrate Red Laser’s technology within its eBay applications — eBay Marketplace, eBay Selling, StubHub and Shopping.com. (Cool…)

9. The Most Expensive eBay.com Purchase: A Jet

A Gulfstream II Jet that sold for $4.9 million in 2001 is the record for highest eBay sale price yet. The record sales price was more than three times the previous known eBay record of $1.65 million. The jet was sold by Tyler Jet (now, Tyler Jet Motorsports), the world’s largest business jet dealer at the time.

10. eBay was the First to Live-Tweet Its Earnings Call

Richard Brewer-Hay, eBay’s corporate blogger, was the first to live-blog a company’s earnings call using a Twitter feed. During the Q2 2010 earning’s call, Brewer-Hay tweeted away using the hashtag #eBayQ210.

Prior to that, he had worked in conjunction with eBay’s legal team to create social media guidelines for reporting company information on behalf of eBay to dodge any legal issues.

Brewer-Hay has played a key role in eBay’s growing presence on various social networks, but there are over 40 other eBay-owned Twitter feeds, including eBay Radio, eBay Classifieds, eBay Green, and PayPal.

Contributed by:  Erica Swallow is an Editorial Assistant at Mashable, working primarily on writing, editing and managing supported feature content.

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