5.1 The History of EBay

To look at eBay today you'd never guess that it sprang from a modest, even comical beginning. Lacking is the glamour of the hotshot enterpreneurial firm and high-voltage venture capital so commonly seen in other companies that are babies of the dot-com bubble. Instead, eBay can be traced back to a home page and a broken laser pointer.

Sometime before September, 1995, 28-year-old software developer Pierre Omidyar, who had previously worked with Claris developing software for Apple computers, sat down to write the code that would eventually evolve into what we know as eBay today.

Originally called AuctionWeb and hosted on the same server as Pierre's page about the ebola virus, the site began with the listing of a single broken laser pointer. Though Pierre had intended the listing to be a test more than a serious offer to sell at auction, he was shocked when the item sold for $14.83. Pierre knew that he'd created something big as soon as he contacted the winning bidder to ask if he understood that the pointer was broken.

"I'm a collector of broken laser pointers," came the reply.

AuctionWeb soon took over Pierre's entire domain, www.ebay.com, short for Echo Bay, which was the name of his consulting firm at the time. By 1996 the company was large enough to require the skills of a Stanford MBA in 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. eBay's vision for success transitioned from one of commerce-buying and selling things-to one of connecting people around the world together.

With exponential growth and strong branding, eBay thrived, eclipsing many of the other upstart auction sites that dotted the dot-com bubble. By the time eBay had gone public in 1998, both Omidyar and Skoll were billionaires.

The rest, as they say, is history.

5.2 The History of Amazon.com

In a world where anyone can purchase just about anything online, it can be difficult to start and maintain a business selling goods online. Media such as CDs, books, and movies is a common ware being sold on the Internet. Over the last decade, online stores have come and gone so often, many people scoff at their inception. But Amazon.com is not such a company. It is one of the largest Internet sellers of media in the world today, and has expanded its selections to include clothing, beauty products, house wares, and thousands of other items.

Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com in 1994. Originally the business was based out of his garage in his Bellevue, Washington home. A businessman by the name of Nick Hanauer believed in Bezos' idea and decided to invest $40,000 in the venture. When Amazon first decided to go online, its layout was not as flashy as it is today. In fact, the site looked very plain and unattractive to most visitors, causing the business to start out on shaky ground. A man by the name of Tom Alburg decided to invest $100,000 in Amazon in 1995, which helped the company fund a better looking website and hosting capabilities. When people began purchasing books from Amazon, Bezos was in awe that he had customers from all over the country, not just Washington State, purchasing books.

Bezos decided that he had to create more than just a bookstore if he wanted people to come back as customers. He added the option of buyers to write their own book reviews, which is a huge credit to Amazon.com's success. People began to look at Amazon as more of an online community and not just a place to purchase things. By 1997, Amazon.com had generated $15.7 million in revenue. Once the company went public the same year, they decided to add CDs and movies to the website. In 1998, Amazon added some new items to the roster: software, electronics, video games, toys, and home improvement items. Once the company began showing signs of success, people became skeptic and claimed that Amazon was getting too large in too short an amount of time.

At the end of 1999, Amazon had raked in over a billion dollars in sales. It seemed as though the profit would never cease. However, in 2001, Amazon reported a fiscal loss of $1.4 billion, and had laid off over 200 workers in the last year. The beginning of 2001 found Amazon laying off even more workers, totaling over 1000. Instead of giving up, Bezos had an idea: recruit other companies to sell their products online through Amazon as well. The idea worked. Companies such as Target, Toys R Us, Old Navy, and many others have agreed to sell their items through Amazon. Although Amazon is not directly responsible for inventory through these companies, they do get part of the sales, creating a profit for all involved. Since the inception of the idea, Amazon is now back on its feet and remains one of the most popular online vendors in the world today.

5.3 The History of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, 23, founded Facebook while studying psychology at Harvard University. A keen computer programmer, Mr Zuckerberg had already developed a number of social-networking websites for fellow students, including Coursematch, which allowed users to view people taking their degree, and Facemash, where you could rate people's attractiveness.

In February 2004 Mr Zuckerberg launched "The facebook", as it was originally known; the name taken from the sheets of paper distributed to freshmen, profiling students and staff. Within 24 hours, 1,200 Harvard students had signed up, and after one month, over half of the undergraduate population had a profile.

The network was promptly extended to other Boston universities, the Ivy League and eventually all US universities. It became Facebook.com in August 2005 after the address was purchased for $200,000. US high schools could sign up from September 2005, then it began to spread worldwide, reaching UK universities the following month.

As of September 2006, the network was extended beyond educational institutions to anyone with a registered email address. The site remains free to join, and makes a profit through advertising revenue. Yahoo and Google are among companies which have expressed interest in a buy-out, with rumoured figures of around $2bn (£975m) being discussed. Mr Zuckerberg has so far refused to sell.

The site's features have continued to develop during 2007. Users can now give gifts to friends, post free classified advertisements and even develop their own applications - graffiti and Scrabble are particularly popular.

This month the company announced that the number of registered users had reached 30 million, making it the largest social-networking site with an education focus.

Earlier in the year there were rumours that Prince William had registered, but it was later revealed to be a mere impostor. The MP David Miliband, the radio DJ Jo Whiley, the actor Orlando Bloom, the artist Tracey Emin and the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, are among confirmed high-profile members.

This month officials banned a flash-mob-style water fight in Hyde Park, organised through Facebook, due to public safety fears. And there was further controversy at Oxford as students became aware that university authorities were checking their Facebook profiles.

The legal case against Facebook dates back to September 2004, when Divya Narendra, and the brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who founded the social-networking site ConnectU, accused Mr Zuckerberg of copying their ideas and coding. Mr Zuckerberg had worked as a computer programmer for them when they were all at Harvard before Facebook was created.

By 2009 Facebook became the 4th most trafficked website in the world and Mr Zuckerberg is a billionaire.

5.4 The History of Twitter

Twitter came onto the internet marketing scene in 2007 primarily. With its never before seen unique spin on advertising and keeping in touch with friends, it has become a popular tool to use. Most people who use twitter are using it daily, several times a day in fact. The basic structure of Twitter is in the term, micro-blogging. Micro-blogging is a form of multimedia blogging that allows users to send brief text updates or micro-media such as photos or audio clips and videos. Twitter is a site with one specific question, "What are you doing?", users tend to answer this question in hundreds of thousands of ways and send a 140 character long message out to all the people who follow their tweets. Its that simple, you just share messages, read others, and send yours.

Twitter was founded in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone. The real history surrounding the way Twitter was developed is more so due to Jack Dorsey and his career path through the years. Jack worked as a software developer, developing software for courier services and took notice to how, as the different businesses used the software and the main office could keep track of their various delivery or service vehicles, essentially, the employees were just reporting back what they were doing at that time. Nevertheless, it kept the dispatch office in constant contact with the drivers, which is a big deal as far as efficiency is concerned. Basically, what Twitter has become is a mixture of 3 different things.

  • Jack's Dispatch Software
  • Instant Messaging
  • Text messaging

With the coupling of these three elements of real time messages being sent, many things are possible. News tends to spread like wildfire on Twitter, friends are able to spawn a get-together in seconds, and marketers are able to instantly share their new ideas or ventures with every single one of their potential or current customers. To many this does not show value and at times Twitter comes under a bit of criticism. Truthfully, Twitter is a very useful tool, provided that you have contacts which either care what you have to say or can benefit from receiving information from you.

5.5 The History of Google

Everyone knows the name Google. Whether young or old, computer smart or not this name will pop up in any conversation about computers. Google has created some very impressive milestones of its time and continues to grow rapidly every day. It all started when Larry Page and Sergey Brin met in Stanford. Larry was 22 and a graduate of University of Michigan was there considering attending the school. And low and behold Sergey, who was 21, was there to show him around. Talk about a match made in heaven!

However, according to some they disagreed on just about everything during their first meeting. In 1996, now firm friends and both of them computer science grad students, began developing a search engine called BackRub. This search engine had operated on Stanford servers for just a little over a year when it started taking up to much bandwidth to suite Stanford. So they decided to switch servers and renamed the search engine in 1997, calling it Google. The name comes from a mathematical term for the number 1 followed by 100 zero's. The use of the term reflects their mission to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web.

In august of 1998, Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim writes them a check for $100,000 to a company that didn't even exist yet. It was at this very moment that they realized what they had and went and incorporated the name Google Inc. Their knowledge was great, but not great enough to impress the money boys or the major internet portals. Oh how they wish they invested in them now! So they began struggling for financial support. Andy was one of the few to see true potential of what these boys had created. During their presentation to him, Andy said he had to duck out for another meeting and offered to write them a check. The check was for $100,000 and that indeed had got things moving for them.

In September the boys moved into the their workspace in Susan Wojcicki's garage at 232 Santa Margarita, Menlo Park, CA. They then went on to file for incorporation in California on September 4 1998. Shortly after completing this important task, the boys went an opened a bank account in the name of Google Inc., their newly established company, and deposited the $100,000 dollar check Andy Bechtolsheim had given them. Shortly after they have established there new business they began hiring employees. There first one was Craig Silverstein, a fellow grad student from Stanford as well.

In December of 1998 PC Magazine wrote: "The 25 million pages currently catalogued seem to be good choices. The site has uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results. There's much more to come from Google, but even in its prototype form it's a great search engine.". They went on to say that Google had made its mark as one off the Top 100 websites for 1998. Even at the very beginning they received only the best reviewes.

They then went on to become the most successful internet company ever. Early in 1999 they struck a deal with Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins for $25 million. In November 1999 Charlie Ayers joined Google as the company's first chef. In April of 2000. Google announced the MentalPlex program, which envisages the software's ability to read your mind as you visualize the search results you want. In June of 2000, Google partnered with Yahoo! to become their default search provider. Also in June they announced the first billion URL index, making Google become the world's largest search engine. In September of 2000 they started offering searches in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, bringing their total number of supported languages to 15. In December 2000 Google toolbar was released.

They have been going strong ever since, making them the largest and best search engine site today, with multiple enhancements. They will continue to be at the top of their game for years to come.

5.6 The History of Yahoo!

Yahoo started life back in 1994, its humble beginnings were the confines of a university campus trailer, Yahoo started life as a collection of favorites put together by a couple of clever guys called David Filo and Jerry Yang.

At this time point who would ever of guessed that this humble beginning would evolve into a global brand, let's face it the first recordable name given to this collection of Internet information was "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web" the acronym for this - JDGWWW doesn't really aspire to becoming a world leading brand.

The collection matured and expanded and soon there were categories and sub categories and this concept became the basic structure for what we see today. Obviously JDGWWW was a non starter as a name and probably never came into the heads of these clever guys, however the physical structure was growing and soon their attention did indeed turn to the subject of brand.

Yahoo was born from a definition:- 'uncouth, rude and unsophisticated', of course there is a connection between this definition and the cry of 'Yahoo', that many recognise as being a loud way to show excitement. The common train of thought is that Yahoo was chosen due to its acronym association with the term: "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle," although there are variations of this such as "Yet Another Hierarchical Obstreperous Oracle," and even "Yet Another Hierarchical Odiferous Oracle," but this according to Mr Filo and Mr Yang is not correct.

Within 12 months this collection of categories and sub categories would gain such popularity that it would break the threshold of one million hits in a single day. This obviously underlined the growing need to marry up the 'peoples' need for information with the Internet itself. This interest and popularity continued to grow rapidly and the guys realized they had the making of a business on their hands.

Soon investment followed with a respected venture capital company (Sequoia Capital) and the boys were in business. Two years later the company was incorporated with a successful IPO and the brand continues to gain strength.

5.7 The History of Wikipedia

Like it or loathe it, Wikipedia is a force. When contributors penned its new entry on Norwegian actress Beate Erksen on Aug. 17, the English-language version of the controversial user-generated encyclopedia reached 3 million entries. More impressive still: more than 10 million users contributed to that milestone. Not bad for a service originally conceived as an afterthought to Nupedia, a failed first attempt by Internet entrepreneur Jimmy Wales and philosopher Lawrence Sanger at creating a free online encyclopedia.

When Nupedia was created in 2000, the plan was for it to feature expert-written, peer-reviewed content. But it suffered from a major problem: a lack of speed. In its first six months, only two articles made it through the process. To spur better production, Sanger suggested creating a counterpart that anyone could contribute to without editorial review. Wikipedia.com went live on Jan. 15, 2001, and the new model quickly eclipsed its older sibling. By the end of the first year, Wikipedia contained more than 20,000 articles in 18 languages. Since then, the site has grown rapidly, swelling to 250,000 articles by 2004 and a million by 2006.

Even in its earliest days, Wikipedia had to reckon with a slew of problems. Among them were vandalism and the lack of a fixed formula for determining what should and shouldn't be included in an encyclopedia unconstrained by physical limitations. The emerging community included a volunteer army of editors, who helped to keep the content aligned with Wikipedia Rules, the first version of which Sanger created in 2002. As the project grew, vandalization and dilution of the encyclopedia's content became more difficult to address. The site's software keeps a log of every modification to every page, and this tracking system has been used to bust some high-profile offenders. In May, Wikipedia banned IP addresses owned by the Church of Scientology on the grounds that Scientologists were making edits that didn't suggest a "neutral point of view" - the encyclopedia's golden rule.

But since its inception, the biggest issue dogging Wikipedia has been concerns about its accuracy. Sanger himself left Wikipedia in 2002 over questions about the legitimacy of the project's entries; he later established a competing encyclopedia, Citizendium, with more rigorous contribution criteria. While a 2005 study by Nature found that Wikipedia's science entries came close to matching the Encyclopaedia Britannica's in terms of accuracy - with 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia - no one argues that Wikipedia's content is flawless. Critics say the writing is clunky or prone to bias and that the authors focus on pet projects. Indeed, the site's list of Star Wars creatures totals more than 15,000 words, while the entire entry on World War II has just 10,000.

Running an organization as influential as Wikipedia isn't inexpensive. The company's costs reach nearly $6 million per year, and though it recorded more than 100 billion page views last year, the site has no advertisements. With that level of traffic, even a single text advertisement per page would net Wikipedia millions of dollars, but Wales is insistent that the service, which is supported by private donations, remains ad-free. As impressive a milestone as 3 million articles is, it simply makes the English Wikipedia the largest component of a massive international enterprise. Wikipedia now contains more than 13 million articles in 271 different languages. The German-language version is the next largest, with more than 900,000 entries, but there's something for readers of every language. Even Cheyenne, which is spoken by only 1,700 Native Americans, has its own version of Wikipedia, although it boasts just 62 articles. Wales, who remains the "spiritual head" of the movement, says he wants Wikipedia to one day contain the sum of human knowledge. It has a way to go, but in just a few years the site has come closer to reaching that lofty goal than anything else.