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eBay As A Way of Life (Not)

THIS WAS ONE of the few times I came late to an online party.

By the time I launched eAuctionTimes.com in the spring of 2004, eBay had already become a cultural phenomenon. The startup days were over, and a phalanx of corporate lawyers now stood guard over the pot of gold.

eBay's sense of its own business appeared to have changed too. By 2004, eBay seemed as concerned with selling eBay.com auction data as it was with eBay.com auction sales themselves.

In late 2003, eBay forced HammerTap (maker of an innovative eBay data mining program called DeepAnalysis) to sell itself to another party more to eBay's liking, and then pay to license the data that eBay publishes freely.

In early 2004, eBay bullied another innovative Web-based service, GoHook, out of business. eBayists employed GoHook to archive their past eBay listings on its site. Although it was almost certainly in the right, tiny GoHook threw in the towel against giant eBay without a fight when eBay objected to GoHook's customers' use of their own information.

So in May 2004, when I received 21 simultaneous, nearly identical, urgent red-flagged email messages from eBay threatening legal action against me concerning my Web domain, eBayist.com, I said screw 'em, gave up my plans for eBayist and closed eAuctionTimes.com down too.

I HAD INTENDED to use eAuctionTimes.com as the news armature around which to subsequently build a slick popular publication -- eBayist.com -- on the diverse and interesting people -- eBayists -- who have made eBay work for them.

eBay didn't think up the word "eBayist," nor does it "own" the people called "eBayists." The living, organic English language created the term as a designation for people who have mastered the online auction world, as opposed to people who just use (and are used by) it, commonly called eBayers.

eBay was just lucky enough to have its business become a cultural phenomenon, something that the endlessly inventive engine of American English could work on. eBay's after-the-fact legal claim to the language is both absurd and self-defeating, but it doesn't really matter. I could see that both eBay and I would be happier if I was doing something else.

What remains here is the complete eAuctionTimes.com archive -- an entertaining picture of contemporary culture through the lens of eBay (the things we buy, the things we sell) during the spring of 2004, along with news, analysis, charts and Data BeamTM .

Among other things, here's an Iraqi rug that was apparently stolen from a museum in Bagdad, Wardrobe Malfunction Barbie and the famous/infamous Wedding Dress listing that received nearly 15 million pages views on eBay in April 2004.

Needless to say, there was nothing about any of this in eBay's officially sanctioned happy talk PR publications...

-- Bruce Brown
January 2005

"For Sale: One Slightly Used Size 12 Wedding Gown. Only worn twice: Once at the wedding and once for these pictures..."

Free eAuctionTimes.com Archive

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