eBay at 20: Past, Present and Future

CEO Devin Wenig looks back on an incredible 20 years and says the best is yet to come

Sometimes, it takes a revolution to change the way we live. Sometimes, it just takes a broken laser pointer and a big idea.

It was during Labor Day weekend 20 years ago that software programmer Pierre Omidyar set himself a coding challenge. He wanted to create an online marketplace built on mutual trust and mutual reward. A place where you could buy something you wanted by selling something you didn’t. He started with a broken laser pointer.

The rest is history. The laser pointer found a buyer, and Pierre’s simple, brilliant idea went on to become an iconic global brand and a vibrant marketplace where great finds and great deals are the norm. eBay is a thriving community where treasure hunters, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and global brands are equally at home.

It’s been an incredible 20 years. From one seller, we grew to about 25 million. Pierre’s first buyer became a community of about 157 million. At any given time, we now have over 800 million items for sale. eBay changed commerce, forever. We are one of the original Silicon Valley Internet success stories – even if the eBay of today is a very different company.

Roughly 80 percent of our merchandise sold now is new. Approximately two thirds of items arrive at your doorstep within three days, and ship for free in big markets, including the U.S., U.K. and Germany.

We have now sold enough cars to encircle the moon more than four times. The number of paintings we’ve sold could fill the Louvre over 45 times. eBay’s apps for iPhone and Android have been downloaded 279 million times.

Our marketplace has never been as big as it is now – and the best is yet to come.

None of this would have happened were it not for the ability of ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Every day, on our marketplace, traditional barriers of language, distance and borders are being broken down. Anyone with an idea, access to the Internet and the will to succeed can build a better life for themselves and their families, secure in the knowledge that they’re operating in a safe and trusted marketplace.

Consider the story of the grandmother from San Jose who lost her daughter to cancer, and is now helping to raise her teenage granddaughter through her eBay business, selling women’s clothing and hard-to-find items.

eBay is not just a means to an end for her or any of our sellers: It is a place where they connect, share and build. And they give. In the last 15 years, our community has raised over half a billion dollars on our platform for charity.

This will be a great anniversary year. We’ll kick off the celebrations in Silicon Valley with our global seller summit next week. It will be a chance for sellers to connect, learn and explore opportunities.

We will be unveiling exciting new products that further enrich and simplify the buying and selling experience, and tools that will empower sellers.  And because we know eBay buyers love to shop, we’ll be offering something special just for them too.

We live in a time when the pace of innovation is astonishing, when the world can change in a heartbeat. Building on our incredible heritage, eBay will continue to be a pioneer, at the forefront of e-commerce.