The Internet is built on the resilience of four big players: Yahoo!, Amazon, Google, and eBay. I had the good luck and fortune to work for Yahoo! for two years and got in touch with the inner working of the Internet in a very exciting way. But if I had to say what company exemplifies the power of the Internet more than any other one, it would be eBay.
Networks accelerate transactions. That’s true for social networks, where you can find romance or a new job much faster than if you were all by yourself. Computer networks work the same, accelerating the rate at which people that want to interact can find each other.
eBay works its magic for the most common transaction between strangers: buying and selling. Imagine you have something you want to rid yourself of. Someone else on Earth most certainly needs exactly that thing. Unfortunately, until eBay came into being, there was no way that you and the other person could know about each other’s need.
It’s as simple as that. It’s so simple, it’s magic indeed. And behind all this sits a single Frenchman, Pierre Omidyar. A genius of insight, or just a lucky guy – nobody will ever know now. Pierre created eBay, realized its power, sat through all the travail and the tribulations, and finally launched himself as a commoner with (literally) several tons of cash into a boring existence in France.
We are left over with a company that could not fail, although it surely tried a great many times. Pierre hires Skoll, Skoll and Pierre hire Meg Whitman, and it’s a story with a happy ending.
Cohen seems quite objective with his writing, and succeeds in making the history of eBay alive and kicking. Sometimes he sounds a bit naive (like when he writes for the tenth time that, this time for sure, the management team had understood the value of community, just to fail again after a few pages). Still, the book quite doesn’t compare with other descriptions of the Internet startup world.