And the answer: eBay.
In 1995, Pierre Omidyar created AuctionWeb, later known as eBay, and listed a laser pointer for sale. In the listing, he noted that the item no longer worked, even with new batteries. He listed it for one dollar. It became the website's first sale, selling for $14.83 a week later to a shopper who still has the laser pointer today.
Legend has it, the idea for eBay came to Pierre Omidyar as a way to get rid of his wife’s collection of Pez dispensers. Although the story has since been proven to be untrue, it’s no lie that Omidyar began the company in 1995 as a hobby—a way to make a couple of extra bucks on the weekend and free up some space. Yet, it didn’t take long for Omidyar to recognize his million dollar idea. Accounts continued to grow on his site, so much so that Omidyar’s Internet service provider urged him to purchase a business account in order to better handle the traffic. By 1996, eBay had grown to become a million dollar business. Upon going public in 1998, eBay made Omidyar an instant billionaire on the first day of trading with a whopping price of $53 per share.
Into the early 2000s, buyers and sellers flocked to eBay in search of goods and good prices. Fortunately for Omidyar, the Beanie Baby craze coincided with eBay's growth, and the site was used to buy and sell the plush toys in large numbers. Around this time, eBay introduced the “Buy It Now” feature—a quality which allowed users to instantly buy a product at a set price. As the products and market of eBay expanded, so too did its interface and popularity.
Can you guess the most expensive item ever sold on eBay? That would be the gigayacht, auctioned off at a cool $168 million in 2006!
Learn more about the history of eBay and its popularity today here.