More than a decade later, I still believe that Pierre was right; the fundamental reason eBay worked was that people everywhere are basically good. We provided the tools and reinforced the values, but our users built eBay. Our community's willingness to trust eBay-and one another-was the foundation of eBay's success.
Pierre's premise was not that all people are good; it was that most people are basically good. I agree that it is an optimistic statement, but let's be clear: we did not build eBay by sticking our heads in the sand. We did not ignore or deny that fraud, distasteful behavior, or unlawful activities occurred on eBay from time to time. Quite the contrary: we invested significantly in eBay's Trust & Safety division, which policed the site. We created software that looked for patterns that might be signs of trading in counterfeit goods, illegal building, or even behavior that was simply inappropriate, such as one user stealing a digital photograph from another user's page. But from day one it was clear to us that such behavior involved only a tiny minority of people.
In Jump Point, Tom Hayes observed:
If we believed that we would or might be cheated, few of us would be eager to transact on eBay. But we do trust, not only eBay as the intermediary, but also the user community itself. The eBay community is self-policing and self-correcting of cheats and fakes. Sellers and buyers earn their reputations. And reputation is one's calling card and bond on eBay. Sure, a cheater may get away with it once, but they system will brand and marginalize that person quickly.
Many participants report that they are more willing to trade with someone with a high rating, or even that they will only trade with individuals with high ratings. In that sense, some traders are able to create a brand identity that increases their volume of sales or even the price at which they are able to sell items. . . Even a few negative ratings can seriously damage a reputation, and so frequent traders are even very careful about nurturing their rating by providing swift execution of honest trades.