FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, July 25, 2005

eBay as a Career

The online auction site eBay has announced that 724,000 of its users rely on the system for their primary or secondary source of income, up 68% from 2004. Aside from these professional eBayers, a survey by ACNielsen found that another 1.5 million supplement their incomes through trading on eBay. Compare these figures with those of Wal-Mart, America's official largest employer, which as of 2004 had 1.1 million employees.

If eBay's figures continue to rise, it will force us to start thinking differently about the nature of employment. Can a nation of consumers support vast numbers of online auctioneers to the point where they can make a career out of their sales? Will we begin buying and selling professional services in the same way (though sites such as Guru.com have been around for some time)? More fundamentally, eBay seems to be pushing us in the direction of mass individual entrepreneurship, and away from the traditional employee-employer paradigm. This will affect how we think about the very nature of work, including benefits, pay, and long-term career goals (including retirement). Certainly, not everyone will work this way in the future, but many will choose to.