When one thinks of online auctions today, the name eBay definitely comes to mind first. This website was the first in what is now a history of the online auction, which began in 1995, when Pierre Omidyar sold his first item. The item was a broken laser pointer, which sold for $ 14.83 to a man who collected such objects.
The history of the online auction was born with that sale, and has continued to grow by exponential amounts since the first day. Omidyar quickly found that his hobby of creating an online garage sale needed to become a part-time business, which grew to a full-time endeavor within a very short period of time.
In many ways, it's thanks to eBay that other online auction sites exist. Amazon.com became a fierce competitor throughout the late 1990's, as did Yahoo! Auctions, who actually still have major market share in some countries.
Other auction sites, while not as big, managed to leave their mark. ePier, started by a couple of poor students, has been one of the few auction sites to withstand all storms and continues on today.
Today, there is a definite move away from auctions to more traditional methods of selling. Craig's List and other online classifieds are gaining popularity, and Amazon.com's open retail market has also earned quite a bit of market share with individuals peddling goods from their garage.
However, much of their success is owed to the early pioneers of online auctions. Undoubtedly, there will be new technologies and new companies that take the market in a different direction, leaving online auctions to be enjoyed by a niche group, just as it was in the beginning.