The outbreak of the Ebola virus has quickly come to dominate news headlines, to the point that new publications such as Ebola Deeply have launched solely to cover the growing epidemic. In 1995, though, Ebola was a far more esoteric topic—one that interested the entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar enough to create a website about it called Ebola Information that lived, curiously, at eBay.com.
In 1995, eBay.com had several components that had nothing to do with the online auctions the brand would become known for. Omidyar purchased the eBay.com address when his first choice, Echobay.com, was taken. According to The Perfect Store: Inside eBay by Adam Cohen, eBay.com featured a page for a biotech startup that Omidyar’s fiancé had been working for. It also hosted a page for a Tufts University alumni group, of which his fiancé was president. At certain points in its young life, eBay included sites for travel and personal shopping.
In light of recent news, the most notable component of eBay.com might be Ebola Information, Omidyar’s “offbeat tribute to the Ebola virus.”
It didn’t take long for eBay’s auction site, named AuctionWeb and located at ebay.com/aw, to take off, relegating Ebola Information and other unrelated pages to the dustbin of Internet history. The company changed the name of AuctionWeb to eBay in 1997.
A coda to this strange piece of Internet trivia? Anyone truly afraid of the virus can use eBay to purchase a hazmat suit of their own. Omidyar may have since turned most of his attention to other ventures—he’s still chairman of the company’s board of directors—but his spirit clearly lives on.