As eBay turns 20, what kind of impact has it had on the IT industry and retail?

Laurent Gibb, CEO of website builder Basekit,comments on the impact eBay has had on the IT industry and the online marketplaces that have followed.

Cast your minds back to the launch of eBay 20 years ago and try to picture the then state of the web hosting and web building industry. You’ll find this extremely difficult because it barely existed. For sure, there were big companies out there building and hosting web sites but they were the exception – the industry was little more than a seed.

Today, web hosting is prolific and extremely accessible to businesses of all sizes. You can’t step out of your front door without tripping over website designers. The industry has certainly come a long way since the birth of eBay in 1995.

Back then web building was a completely new frontier, evident in the appalling security errors in some websites of the time.

By placing a simple dot at the end of an address in the browser bar and hitting return, you could inadvertently access a website directory and company network. This fundamental error reflected the inexperience of the industry.

The internet revolution

The launch of eBay and the concept of the online marketplace created a revolution – not only with its deeply disruptive business model that enabled millions of small traders to participate in the economy, but also with the tools it introduced to enable these radical changes.

For the first time, it wasn’t prohibitively expensive to trade online. A trader simply created an online shop front, complete with secure and trustworthy payment tools thanks to PayPal, and easy shipping and returns. Buyers had the choice of engaging in an auction or simply buying on the spot, all of which made it startlingly easy to get up and running. 

Perhaps one of the most innovative functions was the search tool that enabled buyers to zero in on their chosen product. Most people barely give the search function a second thought, but eBay’s inclusion of ‘search’ into its website brought the function into the mainstream. Despite being only 20 years old, it has become the cornerstone of the Internet economy, helping users navigate through a myriad of pages and images.

Setting the standard

eBay has helped propel the internet to a position where it is an essential component in the everyday lives of billions of people around the world, as well as giving rise to the web building and hosting industry.

While eBay remains one of the best, simplest and cost effective ways to start selling online with little to no outlay, many people that started there have made the leap to a fully functional e-commerce website, enabled by the opportunities prised open by eBay.

Following the rapid success of the online marketplace it didn’t take long for the industry to recognise there was a growing and thriving market for website design and hosting.

Small businesses can now be up and running online with a simple website in minutes, with eBay having paved the way for hosting companies to offer developing and design services. 

About the author

Laurent Gibb is CEO of Basekit, a website builder for small businesses.

He was previously head of business development at and oversaw its sale to eBay, having worked on cross-company projects. He was senior manager and EU lead of strategic partnerships at, after it was purchased by eBay.

Gibb joined BaseKit from programmatic advertising solutions provider MyThings where he has held numerous roles since 2010. In his last role as VP Europe, he was responsible for all European sales revenues and was actively involved in MyThings’ last two funding rounds, which raised over $39 million.

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