On March 30, 1999, an 11-month-old, money-losing Internet company called Priceline.com went public, to the great excitement of investors. By the close of trading the stock price had more than quadrupled and the company was, as Saul Hansell put it in the New York Times the next day, “worth more than United Airlines, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines combined.”
For the next year or so, Priceline.com was one of the most-cited examples of, depending on one’s inclination, either the import or insanity of the Internet boom. Its ubiquitous TV ads featuring William Shatner also got lots of attention, as did founder Jay Walker’s claims that the company’s name-your-price model would “reinvent the environmental DNA” of business. But it was its market valuation that drove the fascination, and after the stock price collapsed from a high of $974.25 a share in April 1999 to $6.75 in December 2000, people mostly stopped talking about Priceline.com.