eBay’s Pierre Omidyar hasn’t talked this much about the company he founded in years. But in order to get press about his new startup, he’s doing interviews, and the story of eBay’s founding (the real one, not the apocryphal Pez tale) makes for compelling reading.
In the latest issue of Inc magazine, Omidyar talks about why he launched the eBay feedback system:
“In February of 1996, about six months after I created eBay, I started receiving a spate of complaints. Everyone was complaining about each other. I felt very much like I was a parent who had to adjudicate the brothers beating each other up. It was like, “He started it!” “No, he started it.” I realized this was going to be a big problem if it kept going this way. So I wrote the community a letter and posted it on the site. I said, “I’m giving you a tool, a feedback forum. If you have an honestly bad experience with someone, post it publicly. And if you can take the time to give positive praise when someone does something good, please do that.”
“It was a real experiment, and I didn’t know what to expect. But in the days and weeks that followed, I was enormously gratified to see that the vast majority of the comments coming in highlighted the good things people were doing that went above and beyond the transaction itself.”
Since then, eBay has made some radical changes to the feedback system. This fall, eBay sent a survey to users in which it proposes even more radical changes to the feedback system.
While Omidyar no longer works for eBay, he remains a director and Chairman of the Board, positions he’s held since eBay’s incorporation in May 1996. It would be interesting to hear his thoughts on why the feedback system became one-sided, and whether he believes it was inevitable.
You can find the full article on the Inc magazine website.