First of a Two-Part Series. In 1995 computer programmer Pierre Omidyar launched the first incarnation of the eBay marketplace, AuctionWeb. The founder's broken laser pointer was the first item sold. Asked what use he could have for such an item, the buyer replied, "I collect broken laser pointers," proving that – even online – one man's trash is another man's treasure. In the intervening years eBay has become synonymous with e-commerce, rivaled only by Craigslist and Amazon.