Shopify releases video exploring what grandmas, pizza, weed, and ecommerce have in common


On the eve of Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year, Shopify — itself an ecommerce giant — has released a video taking a historic look at how ecommerce has opened the door to new opportunities and startups. It asks the question — what was the first thing ever sold online?

Appropriately, the search for the beginning of online shopping started with a tweet from Pizza Hut, which claimed that the first-ever online purchase was a Pizza Hut pizza in 1994.

Verifying this claim requires backtracking to the early days of the Internet — technically, the Arpanet — in 1961, when universities used it to easily exchange information and get access to educational resources. Naturally, university students from Stanford in the 70s used this powerful tool to buy weed off of MIT students.

But Shopify didn’t count this as the first transaction, as it was illegal (among other reasons). Neither did the company count British grandmother Jane Snowball, who used a TV-like invention to connect her phone line to a grocery store’s phone line to get groceries.

Instead, Shopify looks to a man named Dan Kohn, who started what is likely one of the earliest web startups three years after the birth of the Internet in 1994.

Watch the video to find out more:

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Freelance tech writer. Former BetaKit News Editor.