Barton had started out at Microsoft, where, in the mid-nineties, while running the travel-business unit, he came up with the idea of selling airline tickets through the Internet. Back then, this, too, ran counter to social norms. Responsible people did not give their credit-card information to a computer; if you wanted to buy a plane ticket, you talked to your local travel agent, who gave you crumbs of information. “You had to literally ask what the prices and schedules were,” Barton recalled recently.
In 1996, he persuaded Bill Gates to spin off Microsoft’s travel unit as its own company, Expedia, which, with other sites, changed the travel landscape. Customers discovered that they could not only buy plane tickets online but also tap into huge caches of information in order to get the best deals. Airlines, now that they no longer had to pay commissions to travel agents, could lower their ticket prices; travel agents could enroll in culinary school, or take up woodworking.
Lizzie Widdicombe, Improving Workplace Culture, One Review at a Time, The New Yorker January 22, 2018