A Trip Down Memory Lane

All this talk of a new-look Trade Me prompted us to cast our minds back to the early days of the site, when it looked just a little different to what it does now.

How different? Check out the site’s front page from April 1999, when Trade Me was just a month old:

Trade Me - partying like it's 1999

Trade Me - partying like it's 1999

At that point,  Kev the Kiwi wasn’t even a twinkle in his creator’s eye, so we’ll simply acknowledge that, as far as Trade Me’s logo was concerned, the best was yet to come.

We also draw your attention to the strangely compelling Banner Advertisement in the middle of that early page, inviting bids on the site’s banner advertisements (bids started at $1). We understand that the first of these banners (the first paid auction on Trade Me!) sold for the princely sum of $20. Actually, that was probably a reasonable pricetag given that Trade Me’s visitor numbers were still (ahem) somewhat limited back then — many if not most of the site’s users were friends or relatives of site founder Sam Morgan.

Fast forward to the first year of the new millennium. Like most of us, Trade Me survived the Y2K bug, audience numbers were starting to grow — and the Trade Me home page scrubbed up a little bit.

Trade Me launches into the 21st Century

Trade Me launches into the 21st Century

Ah, the retro charm of those big BUY and SELL graphics!

Things were starting to happen with Trade Me in 2000. Traffic was still just a blip by today’s standards, but word was getting round that you might find a bargain on the site. Membership began to grow.

Financially, the little site wasn’t doing so good. Gobally the dot-com boom was turning to bust and all those wonderful internet business models (all potential and no income) started going to the wall. Trade Me’s original plan called for its money to come mostly from advertising — but, alas, risk-averse Kiwi marketers really didn’t understand this interweb thingy, and weren’t going to pour much hard cash into a small “garage sale” operation with limited penetration. Perhaps they hadn’t noticed how popular eBay was becoming offshore.

Anyway, times were tough in the fledgling Trade Me business. So Sam introduced fees for premium listings (bold headlines, featured auctions and the like), which helped somewhat. Finally, in September 2000, Trade Me introduced success fees (sell your item, pay a fee) and finally Trade Me had a real income stream. Time for Kevin the Kiwi to make his entrance.

2001 A Spacebar Odyssey

2001 A Spacebar Odyssey

Looks pretty familiar, doesn’t it? Most of the look and feel of the site was established way back then — what we’ve seen since has largely looked like a steady evolution based on the established theme (although in saying that we do the designers a great disservice for all the development work that’s been put in along the way — please forgive us for our artistic ignorance).

Anyway, here’s a year-by-year journey through the many faces of Trade Me, for you to form your own opinions:








2005 (first edition of Trade Me Success Secrets published)


2006 (Year of the Sale to Fairfax)


2007 (Second Edition of Trade Me Success Secrets)


2008 and today

And, of course, there’s the proposed new look site:


2009 - the preview

Can’t wait to see how Trade Me looks in 2019, after another decade of makeovers …

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