What is Alibaba?



It is a marketplace, a search engine and a bank, all in one.

Key roles and processes at Alibaba.com

  • Suppliers (or exporters) post company information and product information (together with photos, descriptions, specifications, shipping terms, etc.) on Alibaba.com.
  • Buyers (or importers) search and browse supplier’s products and then make inquiries to negotiate or place orders. No built-in shopping cart system, the order terms are negotiated and confirmed via email or live chat. Here’s how: Search products or suppliers → Send inquiry → Get quotes → Build deal
  • No transaction fees or commissions are paid to Alibaba.com. Whether you want to sell or buy on Alibaba.com, join free today! Your Alibaba.com account can be used to sign in to AliExpress.com

Alibaba.com is a B2B (business-to-business) marketplace where small business buyers can connect with suppliers, and vice versa, from more than 240 countries and regions. In addition, Alibaba.com offers a transaction-based retail website, AliExpress.com, which allows smaller buyers to buy small quantities of goods at wholesale prices.

Alibaba.com was born as a start-up in Hangzhou, China and grew into a truly global business with over 36.465 employees in some 70 cities in Greater China, India, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. Today, around 434 million active users use Alibaba.com’s international marketplace to turn their business dreams into reality.

It’s a bit like if you rolled eBay, Amazon and Google into one company. It acts as a middleman letting people and businesses use its platform to sell their own items in auctions (eBay and Amazon) and also makes money from advertising (Google).

The company is the largest online and mobile commerce company in the world in terms of gross merchandise volume. Founded in 1999, the company provides the fundamental technology infrastructure and marketing reach to help businesses leverage the power of the Internet to establish an online presence and conduct commerce with hundreds of millions of consumers and other businesses. It was founded in 1999 by Jack Ma with the launch of flagship online marketplace Alibaba.com, which connects suppliers of pretty much anything with buyers. It has since expanded to launch other websites – including AliExpress, Taobao and Tmail – which now dominate the e-commerce market.

The company name came from the character Ali Baba from the Arabian literature “One Thousand and One Nights” because of its universal appeal, as Jack Ma explained:

One day I was in San Francisco in a coffee shop, and I was thinking Alibaba is a good name. And then a waitress came, and I said, “Do you know about Alibaba?” And she said yes. I said, “What do you know about?”, and she said, “Open Sesame”. And I said, “Yes, this is the name!” Then I went on to the street and found 30 people and asked them, “Do you know Alibaba?” People from India, people from Germany, people from Tokyo and China … they all knew about Alibaba. Alibaba – open sesame. Alibaba is a kind, smart business person, and he helped the village. So … easy to spell, and globally known. Alibaba opens sesame for small- to medium-sized companies. We also registered the name “Alimama”, in case someone wants to marry us!”

Alibaba New Buyer Guide

Alibaba.com is the leading B2B platform that allows buyers from all over the world to connect with global manufacturers, distributors and trading companies. Learn how you can handle international sourcing quickly and easily, from sourcing products and inspection to shipping and payment with Alibaba.com. We’re helping enable global trade.

Find Products & Suppliers

Alibaba.com brings you hundreds of millions of products in over 40 different major categories. Whether it’s sourcing from your mobile phone or contacting suppliers in their local language, turn to Alibaba.com for all your global business needs. Even with hundreds of millions of products, it’s simple to get started.


Alibaba’s searchbar lets you look for products, buyers or suppliers. Just enter a product you’d like to stock, a component you could source more efficiently, an area you’re interested in or a supplier name.
Begin Your Search

Search for a product, then narrow and filter your results to find the right product. There are a multiple methods of searching for products, some of which may suit your needs better than others.

Narrow your search by related categories and product specifications to find exactly what you need. You also can narrow your search as this shows

Search tips:

  • For more results, reduce the number of words (e.g. use “bicycle frame” instead of “carbon bicycle frame work”)
  • Avoid keywords that are too specific (e.g. use “Honda ATV” instead of “red 4X4 Honda ATV”)
  • Only search for one product at a time
  • Don’t enter a country/region in the search bar (e.g. “China shoe”)
  • Don’t include the word “buyer” or “seller” in the search bar (e.g. “shoe buyer”)

Browse Categories

Need inspiration or ideas? Browse our categories for something that catches your eye… Alibaba.com brings you hundreds of millions of products in over 40 different major categories, including consumer electronics, machinery and apparel.

Contacting Suppliers

When you see something that interests you, it’s time to start the conversation. Using the Contact Supplier button is the easiest way to submit an inquiry and save your communication history on Alibaba.com

  • When you find a product you are interested in, click Contact Supplier to submit an inquiry.
  • Fill out the message form by entering a subject line, and message to the supplier. This message should include any questions you might have about the products as well as your purchase request. Ask everything you can think of, even if it seems obvious and don’t forget you can always request a free product sample to check the quality. You want to make sure you are getting exactly what you expect.
  • Click Send Inquiry Now when you are finished to complete the process and send your message to the supplier.

Note: It will be your responsibility to continue with the deal by negotiating with the supplier.

Stay Safe

Look out for badges that identify verified suppliers. These indicate different levels of verification: Alibaba.com or independent companies have performed documented inspections of these companies.

You can also choose Gold Suppliers, including by their number of years trading on Alibaba.com.


Global sourcing is made possible by reliable inspection services.

Alibaba.com lets you choose the inspection company to visit the factory or port, photograph the products, examine the certification and more.

You can inspect goods and companies at a time and place of your choice.

Alibaba Logistics

A logistics platform for companies large and small, using the scale of Alibaba.com to deliver peak season shipping and transparent prices.

With global leaders like FedEx, UPS, DHL, TNT, EMS and more as partners, we offer last-mile delivery and a selection of global shipping lines.

Whether your goods were ordered on Alibaba.com or offline direct from the factory, Alibaba Logistics is open to everyone.

Payment & Finance

For safe, secure payment, think Secure Payment.

Alibaba.com’s Secure Payment service holds your payment until you confirm delivery and satisfaction. Peace of mind guaranteed.

For powerful trade financing, think e-Credit Line.

e-Credit Line offers up to US $2,000,000 and 120 days of Open Account transactions to boost your global sourcing purchasing power.

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