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Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

eBay, the first major marketplace that revolutionized how people viewed the usefulness of the internet in the 1990s, pioneered both the promise and pitfalls of online platforms, including the dynamics that plague the largest forces on the internet today, argues New York Times reporter John Herrman.

Why it matters: The influence of internet platforms — primarily Google and Facebook — have grown exponentially since eBay's heyday, when only half of U.S. adults used the internet. Regulators and consumers alike are trying to sort out how news, information, data and ads are peddled on these platforms — and how it all impacts competition and general discourse.

  • The first platform: In many ways eBay was the model that inspired today's systems that host the most popular online communications. "It was among the first true megaplatforms — the sort that establishes itself as something like online infrastructure. And it may be, to date, the last one we truly understand," Herrman writes.
  • Then vs. now: eBay's model was straightforward in that it was all about selling products within the norms of traditional commerce; i.e., a clear exchange between a buyer and seller. Today's platforms, however, are multi-sided marketplaces in which the largest party — the users — aren't actually involved in buying or selling. "If eBay is a machine for finding the right price for a pair of shoes, Facebook — behind the veneer of enabling human connection — is a machine for discovering the right price for a pair of eyeballs. Your eyeballs," he writes.
  • Selling human attention: The tech industry at large has favored self-regulation over any sort of official intervention in disputes or other problems on the platform. The problem, as Herrman writes, is that the biggest platforms are trying to address social issues like fake news, censorship and bullying with market-oriented solutions. Selling human attention as a commodity, it turns out, isn't so so black and white.
  • Everything has limits: Back in the day, eBay remade commerce with its auction system and was synonymous with online shopping. But even the company's seemingly unstoppable growth came to an end. Today, he points out, Amazon is the king of e-commerce. The lesson to other major tech platforms (even Amazon, perhaps) is that nothing lasts forever.
  • Its legacy: Other than reshaping online retail, alumni of eBay and PayPal, which eBay bought in 2002, like Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar and Peter Thiel, are incredibly rich and driving the next potentially revolutionary innovations (think: rockets and under-city tunnels).

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Updated 39 mins ago - World

Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 years in prison

An anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar.Photo: Hkun Lat/Getty Images

A Myanmar court sentenced the country's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Monday to four years in prison on charges of "inciting public unrest" and breaking COVID-19 protocols, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: It's the first of several verdicts that could result in the 76-year-old Nobel laureate being imprisoned for the rest of her life. The 11 charges she faces have been widely criticised as politically motivated.

4 hours ago - World

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."