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eBay is the largest online auction house and the seven-largest online retailer in the world.
Almost everyone knows the name, but do you know what it stands for? I mean the acronym, not their corporate values (which are “none”).
I’ll admit that despite selling on eBay for almost 10 years I actually didn’t know. Like everyone else I thought it stood for “electronic bay”.
Since e-mail is “electronic mail” and e-commerce is “electronic commerce,” it seemed logical, although it turns out it’s incorrect. So, what does eBay actually stand for?
eBay’s Name Explained
Despite what we’ve seen online or how we might feel sometimes, the name does not stand for “Electronic Bandits All Year”, “Electronic Bidding Against Yourself”, or “Everything But Auctions Yelling”.
eBay is short for “Echo Bay,” which was chosen after the same-named body of water, which is in the northern section of Lake Mead in Nevada.
As to why eBay’s founder chose this specific bay to serve as the name of his auction website, we have to take a look at a brief history of the company and its founding.
History and Founding of eBay
An Iranian-American businessman named Pierre Omidyar started the website simply because he wanted to “do something cool online.” He had no idea in 1995 that it would soon become of the biggest websites on the planet.
At the time, it was reported that he started the website to help his wife buy and sell PEZ dispensers. Several years later, the company admitted the story was made up by a marketing team and was not based in reality.
He originally chose the name “AuctionWeb,” which the company kept for its first two years. In 1997, Omidyar decided to change the name to “Echo Bay,” because, in his words, it “sounded cool.”
It was also derived from the Echo Bay Technology Group, which was the consulting firm that Omidyar created and operated at the time.
The only problem was, EchoBay.com was already in use by a Canadian gold mining company, so he shortened it to simply “eBay.”
The first item sold was a broken laser pointer sold to a Canadian gentleman. Omidyar contacted the buyer to make sure he knew the item didn’t work and the man told him that he collected broken laser pointers, so he was glad to hear it didn’t function.
eBay Through the Years
The company rose quickly, with a total of $7.2 million in sales by June 1996. Today, eBay does almost 1,500 times that amount every year!
In 2002, PayPal was announced as a wholly-owned subsidiary, which then became the only accepted payment method on the website. After years of complaints and anti-trust lawsuits, the two split in 2020, and now a variety of payment types can be used.
Although they have since sold off all of their holdings, eBay once owned Skype, StubHub, and 25% of Craigslist.
Over the years, eBay has grown quite a bit from its beginnings as a man selling a broken laser pointer because he wanted to have fun.
In 2021, the company reported earnings of 10.42 billion dollars. $27.5 billion worth of merchandise was sold that year as well and, at any given time, there are about 1.7 billion items for sale.
This may seem like a lot, but with over 135 million buyers, there are still plenty of opportunities for sellers, either as a business or just as a way to make a few extra dollars.
To sum up, eBay is named after founder Pierre Omidyar’s consulting firm, the Echo Bay Technology Group, which was shortened after the name was already taken.
It does not stand for “Electronic Bay”, “Electronic Bidding Against Yourself”, “Electronic Bids All Year”, or any of the other common acronyms that people sometimes believe make up the name.
eBay might not be our favorite online auction website, but they are the most popular, and based on the company’s increasing success, it’s fair to say that eBay isn’t dead and it won’t be going anywhere for quite some time.