eBay Celebrates Twenty Years

Originally called “Auction Web,” the site launched with the listing of a broken laser pointer on Labor Day in 1995. Our founder, software programmer Pierre Omidyar, wanted to create an online marketplace built on mutual trust and mutual reward, a marketplace where someone could buy something they wanted by selling something they didn’t. Omidyar tested the new site with a listing of a broken laser pointer. The item sold for $14.83 to a collector of broken laser pointers. Omidyar knew he was on to something big.

Auction Web soon became ebay.com, short for Echo Bay, the name of Omidyar’s consulting firm at the time. By 1996 the company was large enough to require the skills of a Stanford MBA named Jeffrey Skoll, who came aboard an already profitable ship. Meg Whitman, a Harvard graduate, soon followed as president and CEO, along with a strong business team under whose leadership eBay grew rapidly, branching out from collectibles into nearly every type of market.

Connecting the World

eBay’s vision for success transitioned from one of commerce—buying and selling things—to one of connecting people around the world. eBay thrived, experiencing exponential growth, and with strong branding eclipsed many auction sites. eBay went public in 1998 and today is a thriving community where treasure hunters, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and global brands are equally at home.

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Recently our CEO Devon Wenig wrote, “It’s been an incredible twenty 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.”

Today 80 percent of merchandise sold is new and arrives at your doorstep within three days. Sellers have sold enough cars to encircle the moon four times. eBay’s apps for iPhone and Android have been downloaded 279 million times. Any person 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. This is where eBay’s Global Asset Protection (GAP) team comes in.

Focused on Trust

For eBay nothing is more important than trust. Without trust, our marketplace could not function. As such, we take trust very seriously and work diligently to maintain trust in our systems and among the parties that rely on our platform. Since 2008, eBay’s GAP team has sought more effective ways to detect, investigate, and combat organized retail crime.

Our GAP team works with retail and law enforcement partners to combat organized retail crime every day. The shared experience of collaborative investigation improves our knowledge of criminal activity and is a force multiplier. Most importantly, the collaboration builds trust and ensures a safe and competitive market place for our users. GAP will continue to work with our retail and law enforcement partners and seek ways innovate and adapt our investigative methods to meet future challenges.

Chip-and-Pin. As we head into our 21st year, several areas are on our radar. The first is chip-and-pin cards. This technology change improves the security of credit cards when used in a physical establishment, but has an unintended effect of moving criminal fraud to online retailers. Europe saw a 150 percent increase in online fraud as physical location fraud dropped as this technology was implemented. As the US moves to chip-and-pin cards, asset protection should prepare for the implications of this new technology shift and evaluate company fraud models.

Triangle Fraud. The second is “triangle fraud.” This scam operates in the following manner. A criminal seller lists items for sale on their own website, a classifieds site, or auction site. When a buyer purchases the merchandise, the fraudster purchases the item from a retailer using stolen credit card information and instructs the retailer to ship directly to the unsuspecting buyer. The card holder of the stolen credit card will dispute the purchase, and the card company or retailer incurs the loss. This crime continues to gain traction according to our colleagues around the globe and certainly will continue to grow as credit crime is forced online.

These are just two issues the GAP team will help solve with the help of our retail and law enforcement partners to ensure eBay remains a marketplace that buyers and sellers can trust.

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