eBay’s Whitman Says Web is Doing Just Fine

LOS ANGELES — Serving up just what a down-in-the-dumps crowd at Internet World needed to
hear, Meg Whitman, CEO of San Jose, Calif.-based auction giant eBay gave a
bullish forecast for the Internet in general and her company specifically in
her conference-opening keynote address.

“Obviously we don’t think the Internet is dead,” says Whitman. “It’s
clear to me the Internet’ future is very bright. It’s still one of greatest
inventions of all time and is changing everything. Anyone who thinks it’s a
fad is desperately short sighted.”

At Penton Media’s 8th Annual Internet World Spring in Los Angeles, the
charismatic leader of eBay eschewed slides and props for a straightforward
chat with the Internet faithful in which she took stock of the previous five
years of the Internet’s growth and spelled out what needs to happen for
future growth.

From autos to the Internet, Whitman noted that all industries have had to
endure a period of over-speculation and subsequent shakeout. Still, per-user
growth of the Internet is projected at a none-too-shabby 23 percent a year.

But to ensure that growth continues, Whitman cited three
things that needed to occur:

  • Take stock: People need time to digest the new products and
    services made available through the Internet

  • Broadband proliferation: Currently, only 5 percent of the
    population access the Web through broadband services. But broadband users
    spent 60 percent more time online. “Until more people are able to experience
    the rich and fast access broadband offers, it’s going to be a major
    impediment to businesses on the Net trying to reach consumers,” says
    Whitman

  • Stay focused: Internet companies must stay focused on the goals
    and not stray into being all things to all people

“When it comes to running a successful business, there is only one
economy,” Whitman said.

By most measures, eBay has consistently proven to be a success based on
profitability and continuing growth. Whitman joined eBay in January,
1998, when the company was already growing at 70 percent a month. Today, she
said eBay serves a whopping 140 million page views a day, and gained 4.5
million new users in the fourth quarter of 2000 alone. Whitman said eBay
does about $17 million dollars in transactions a day, and is on track to grow
an aggressive 50 percent-a-year clip for the next several years, up to $3 billion
by 2005.

“Ebay was the first level playing field for buyers and sellers of all
shapes and sizes,” said Whitman. We facilitate efficient transactions and
hold no inventory. Best of all, eBay is an exciting community based on
shared areas of interest and open feedback communications.

“One of the reasons I think that eBay is so successful is that we have
also stuck to a sound business plan from the beginning. At eBay, everyone
knows that we all do one thing. We work everyday to be the world’s largest
and most compelling ecommerce platform on the net,” she added.

Among the other secrets that eBay cited were partnerships with companies
like AOL, Disney and GM. In addition, Whitman gave Microsoft’s .NET strategy
a plug. As
reported,
Microsoft and eBay Monday united in a partnership to jointly
expand their global online presence while streamlining the online buying
process.

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