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.
AuctionWeb was just one of four sites housed under Omidyar’s umbrella company, eBay Internet. The other three included a travel site set up in loose partnership with a local San Jose travel agent, a personal shopper site, and a site about the Ebola virus. Check out the screenshot above of AuctionWeb, circa 1997.
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, though sparse, also used “eBay” more than “AuctionWeb.” The actual name change took place in September of 1997 and involved a migration of existing users to a completely new platform with a more graphical website and home page. It also introduced the world to the multi-colored eBay logo we know today.
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.