The History of Online Shopping. Examining The Original Online Shopping Sites

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The history of online shopping does not begin with a large retail presence on the Internet by a well known company. Indeed, when the Internet was first conceived, it was not with the idea that it would revolutionize the way people shop. The Internet as we know it developed a little over three decades eventually becoming available commercially in 1989, and in 1990, the first World Wide Web server and browser were created. This allowed business to utilize this new and consumer friendly technology. Curiously, most of the companies that pioneered the online marketplace were not well known industry giants.

Book Stacks Unlimited

Book Stacks Unlimited was an online bookstore that began as a bulletin board. The store itself was opened in 1992, unfortunately, the name was not prophetic as the company was quite limited. The original idea was to offer every book ever published in an easily accessible way to everyone who was interested. The idea was an excellent one, but not implemented successfully until two years later with the birth of another company.

Pizza Hut

Surprisingly enough, Pizza Hut led the way in online shopping. In 1994, they were the first national chain to offer online ordering with the option of home delivery. The test restaurant was in Santa Cruz, California. However, it was not until 2007 that online ordering was available for all Pizza Hut locations. Recently, in 2008, the company took their online shopping one step further by allowing orders to be placed by text message or through web enabled cell phones.


Amazon was launched in 1995 and was originally designed to be an online bookstore. However, it soon became apparent that there was a massive demand for other goods as well and the company quickly diversified soon offering an eclectic collection of merchandise.


Perhaps one of the most well known online marketplaces is eBay, which began in 1995. Pierre Omidyar coded the online auction house website that was originally run from his home computer. eBay is the best example of how disparate economies and cultures can come together in a truly worldwide marketplace. Almost eighty-five million people from nearly forty countries are using eBay on a regular basis.

As of 2008, according to The Nielson Company, nearly eighty percent of adult online consumers made purchases in the six months prior to the survey. This is astounding considering this virtual marketplace has been in existence for less than a generation. The top two online retailers are still eBay and Amazon, respectively. Oddly, purchasing books or making purchases from an auction site are fifth and seventh in transaction popularity.

The history of online shopping shows us that a good idea is all that is needed to succeed in an online environment. Start-up companies have led the way for many of the more well established brick and mortar companies and continue to do so. It will be interesting to look back and see what the history of online shopping looks like in another twenty years.