In the somewhat behind-the-curve piece in Newsweek this week about web 2.0 companies like flickr and MySpace, it was nice to see some small bit of credit given to eBay. I think there is a credible, and probably correct, argument to be made that most of the things we consider new and unique about these web 2.0 companies — even many aspects of the "live web" notion that is being pushed as new — were thought up and implemented by Pierre Omidyar, in his house, in 1995 and 1996 as he gave birth to eBay. All this is well documented in "The Perfect Store."
used the term friction-free capitalism to describe how the Internet was helping to create Adam Smith's ideal marketplace, in which buyers and sellers can easily find one another without taking much time or spending much money.
I've never seen any evidence to suggest that Gates' thinking ever influenced Omidyar in his early work on getting eBay (then AuctionWeb) launched. But clearly they were thinking along the same lines.
It's interesting that Gates understood this so well, so early on, but that Microsoft failed to capitalize in any significant way on his insights.