How 'eBay' got its name: It was originally a site about ebola in the Bay Area

Pierre OmidyarREUTERS/Tim ShaffereBay founder and chairman Pierre Omidyar

We’ve always wondered how eBay got its name. The “e” seems like it might stand for “electronic” — common shorthand in a lot of company names from the dot-com era, but what about Bay?

Now we know, thanks to a profile of founder Pierre Omidyar in New York Magazine.

The eccentric engineer was obsessed with the public-health system’s inability to cope with large-scale health crises, particularly ebola It was around the time of the movie “Outbreak,” so the idea of a pandemic was in a lot of people’s minds.

After purchasing the domain he filled the site with pages of ebola-related content.

So “e” stood for “ebola,” and “Bay” for “Bay Area.”

Andrew Rice at New York Magazine reports:

In August 1995, as General Magic [his previous company] began to show signs of financial distress, Omidyar took advantage of the Labour Day weekend to program a simple auction service and posted a link to it on He soon recruited a company president, Skoll, whose first management decision was to remove the alarming Ebola content, over Omidyar’s objection that it was still drawing lots of traffic.

Read the rest of Rice’s profile of the billionaire and his new media organisation, First Look Meida, in New York Magazine.

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