The original idea behind Priceline.com was simple but clever: compile an inventory of airplane seats that go empty, and sell them to people at whatever price they are willing to pay.

Armed with this premise, Priceline opened its virtual doors in April 1998 and quickly made a name for itself. Web surfers seemed enthusiastic about the "name-your-own-price" concept, and soon friends and family members started bragging to one another about the bargain travel arrangements they had made through Priceline.

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