The origin story of eBay—which was founded 20 years ago, as AuctionWeb, on Sept. 3, 1995–is fairly well-known: other tech giants have their garages, eBay has its Pez dispenser. Or, rather, founder Pierre Omidyar’s then-fiancée didn’t have a Pez dispenser. It was her desire to more easily expand her collection that inspired Omidyar to create a way for her to arrange sales and purchases online.
But, as any number of start-ups have found, a good idea and good code do not a profitable business make. And the reason for eBay’s transition from small project to a functioning company is much less cute than the Pez story. Omidyar was running the business at home, and his Internet provider started to charge him more, as TIME explained in a 1999 story about the rise in online auctions:
As of May 2015, Forbes placed eBay’s market value at nearly $69 billion.
Read more from 1999, here in the TIME Vault: The Attic of E
- Climate-Conscious Architects Want Europe To Build Less
- The Red-State Governor Who's Not Afraid to Be 'Woke'
- Jonathan Van Ness: We Are Still Not Taking Monkeypox Seriously Enough
- The Not-So-Romantic Return of Europe's Sleeper Trains
- This Filmmaker Set Out To Record Her Family’s Journey Rebuilding Afghanistan. Her Work Is a Reminder of What’s at Stake
- Why Sunscreen Ingredients Need More Safety Data
- What Historians Think of the Joe Biden-Jimmy Carter Comparisons
- Author Mimi Zhu Is Relearning What It Means to Love After Trauma