If the turnover of the online auction house was a state's GDP, it would rank alongside Morocco. That's not bad for a website, especially one apparently set up to help its creator's wife collect Pez dispensers. But eBay can do more than just indulge your weird hobbies or find a home for your junk. The number of small businesses operating on the site has risen 68% in the past two years - attracted by its 181 million registered users. It now hosts 383,000 stores worldwide, and more than 68,000 people in the UK get a quarter of their income through eBay trading. CEO Meg Whitman boasted in February that the auction site is moving away from its roots - more than a third of sales are now fixed-price. eBay may be growing up, but surely the thrill of the chase was central to the attraction. Will those Cookie Monster slippers seem quite so must-have when you don't have to outwit other bidders to acquire them? $44.3bn: eBay's gross merchandise volume, 2005.
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