eBay is a model company, as it holds inside some of those things we talk about day after day: viral marketing, collaboration, P2P, users’ networks, contents filtering… that is, social software. And eBay is not just a profitable social software company, but also one of the main employers in the US (it has more people working for it than McDonald’s) and the fastest growing brand in the world.
According to Interbrand and Business Week, which measure the main world brands every year, eBay grew 21%. That makes it the fastest growing brand in the world, even more than Samsung, the Korean hardware manufacturer which has surpassed Sony as the main electronics company. eBay is worth 4.7 billion euros, which places it as the 55th world brand. Google is even better placed as the 38th world brand, with a total value of 7 billion euros, more than Apple and Yahoo!
The worthiest brands are quite known companies:
6. Nokia (has increased its position since 2004)
14. American Express
18. Louis Vuitton
25. Merrill Lynch
What is interesting about the fact that the fastest growing brand is actually a social sofware company is the fact that this type of software has a clear return in terms of public knowledge. And also in terms of economic returns. When I first saw eBay and other auction websites as Aucland or iBazar, I thought that it would be hard for these companies to get their users to buy something from somebody they didn’t really know. Sending money to a random person sounded too risky.
But eBay had already planned how to surpass that problem: people will trust each other if they can show that their social network already trusts them. Hard to do in the analogue world but easy to do by using social software. And so did eBay: it created a reputation system which supports the biggest marketplace on the Internet and, probably, in the whole wide world. Reputation is based on metadata given by users, which also makes it simpler and cheaper than older systems.