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Electronic Commerce | E-commerce in Europe | EU e-commerce legal framework | E-commerce and SMEs | Banks struggling on Internet | E-commerce and telecomms | Interoperability of e-commerce data | Creating trust in the information infrastructure | Electronic commerce for SMEs| Secure Electronic Marketplace for Europe (SEMPER) | ESPRIT and ACTS projects on Electronic Commerce | E-commerce research in Europe | Digital Commerce Center | CommerceNet | Joint Electronic Payment Initiative (JEPI) | Internet EDI | Open Buying on the Internet (OBI) | Information and Content Exchange (ICE) Protocol | Open Trading Protocol (OTP) Standard | Mobile E-commerce | E-commerce and XML | IETF and EDI | RosettaNet | E-commerce and Java | E-Commerce in Japan | Vendors of E-Commerce systems | Electronic signature standardisation | Online software sales strategies | E-commerce resources

Electronic Commerce

Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is the combination of networked applications and commerce and will provide the bedrock of the emerging Information Society. It will provide the information technology infrastructure to support future business processes and the exchange of goods and services. We have divided the subject into three subsets, which are covered under different topic headings:

This section concentrates on the infrastructure requirements, and at the same time covers the area of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) - a networked trading mechanism which was a fore-runner to the Internet-based e-commerce now emerging.

E-commerce in Europe

EU e-commerce legal framework

The European Commission has welcomed the European Parliament's approval of the Electronic Commerce Directive, which clears the way for this important measure to become law within the next 18 months. The Lisbon Summit identified this Directive as a top priority in preparing Europe's transition to a knowledge-based economy and boosting competitiveness.

It establishes specific harmonised rules to ensure that businesses and citizens can supply and receive Information Society services throughout the EU, irrespective of frontiers. These areas include definition of where operators are established, transparency obligations for operators, transparency requirements for commercial communications, conclusion and validity of electronic contracts, liability of Internet intermediaries, on-line dispute settlement and the role of national authorities.

In other areas the Directive builds on existing EU instruments which provide for harmonisation or mutual recognition of national laws.

Interestingly the Directive defines the place of establishment as the place where an operator actually pursues an economic activity through a fixed establishment, irrespective of where web-sites or servers are situated or where the operator may have a mail box. The full release outlining the directive is available online at the URL below. 19/05/00

E-commerce and SMEs

Knowledge and Information Transfer on Electronic Commerce (KITE) - Within the context of the G8 pilot project "A Global Marketplace for SMEs" the project KITE set out to collect, illustrate, analyse and inform on the diversity of e-commerce that is undertaken specifically by small and medium sized companies (SMEs).

To achieve these goals an Inventory with a self-registry mechanism was set up, an analysis and a best practice guide were produced. In addition, the project supported the activities within the G8 pilot project and disseminated best practice in E-commerce. (The final G8 report can be found at the web site below).

The KITE web site provides a good starting point for companies considering the implications of e-commerce; where links to all KITE publications and the inventory can also be found. 09/05/00

URL: http://kite.tsa.de/

Banks struggling on Internet

Some of the world's leading banks are investing heavily in electronic banking services, even though they have no clear business justification for their moves, according to a survey published by management consultants Ernst & Young. Over a hundred of the world's largest banks in 26 countries took part in the study entitled: "Electronic Commerce & Connecting to the Customer". The findings included:

Commenting on the findings, Jonathan Charley, Ernst & Young's Banking Partner, reflected: "Ironically, the very infrastructure that makes it easier to deliver a wider range of products and services to help keep customers happy, also makes it easier for customers to compare and contrast competitors. Increasingly, as firms try to catch-up with small, high-tech competitors, they may inadvertently be accelerating the issue of dwindling customer retention".

E-commerce and telecomms

The ITU have released a report on the role of the national telecommunications policy maker and regulator in the development of electronic commerce. The report, entitled "Regulatory issues for E-commerce", also reviews the participants' views on the possible role of the ITU in facilitating electronic commerce. The report, a product of the Eighth Regulatory Colloquium held at ITU Headquarters in Geneva last December, is designed to assist telecommunications regulators and policy-makers, in grappling with the many issues they are confronted with as a result of the rapid uptake of e-commerce.

The Colloquium reached five key conclusions:

The report is available free of charge from the ITU's Strategic Planning Unit or on the ITU web site.

URL: Strategic Planning Unit mailto: marianne.lathuille@itu.int
URL: report http://www.itu.int/plweb-cgi/fastweb?getdoc+view1+itudoc+4543+0++Regulatory%20issues%20for%20E-commerce
URL: ITU http://www.itu.int

Interoperability of e-commerce data

Interoperability of Data in E-commerce Systems (indecs) is an international initiative of rights owners which seeks to develop a framework of metadata standards to support network commerce based on intellectual property. The initiative is supported under the European Commission's Info2000 programme embracing multimedia rights clearance systems (MMRCS). The project site claims that indecs will deliver, by the end of 1999:

indecs-link is a free monthly online newsletter, detailing new areas and updates added to the indecs website which is aimed at policy-makers, librarians, the creative industries and anyone interested in developing standards to support the trade in intellectual property.

The second issue, dated March 1999, includes details of:

Creating trust in the information infrastructure

International Commerce eXchange (ICX) is hoping to act as a single focal point encompassing all aspects of creating trust in the global information infrastructure. ICX plans to address this issue by bringing together large, medium and small business users, suppliers and governments and through them:

The latest ICX research has produced a short paper, investigating the 20 most commonly-cited business barriers to adoption of e-commerce. The paper provides some useful pointers as to the requirements placed on European businesses in order to be successful in the implementation of e-commerce.

URL: http://www.icx.org
URL: further information mailto:info@icx.org

Electronic commerce for SMEs

"Electronic Commerce in the European Union" provides a starting point which provides links to other EU initiatives in the area of electronic commerce.

There is also a US website to providing EC related technical and change management assistance to small companies. The project is sponsored by the National Institute of Technology's Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and site coverage will be developed in-line with feedback from users.

The Improving Business Search on Internet (IBSI) project is developing an XML-based search engine to "improve business directories and e-commerce applications for European Small and Medium Enterpises". IBSI is a sub-project of the KITE (Knowledge and Information Transfer on Electronic Commerce) programme.

The IBSI project is assessing the feasibility of an XML-based search engine by examining both the technical and the economic implications. By classifying business information in a consistent way and by identifying it with XML tags it is possible to achieve better performances in web retrieval. A demonstration search tool based on XML is available via the project web site.

Within the context of the G8 pilot project "A Global Marketplace for SMEs" the KITE project plans to "increase knowledge, understanding and awareness in targeted sectors of SMEs regarding electronic commerce". It aims to create understanding within intermediaries such as chambers of commerce, legal and professional service providers, banks and regional development bodies. KITE also plans to "facilitate the transfer of knowledge between organisations active in developing electronic commerce projects and trials, in order to accelerate development of best practice, and increase opportunities for commercial exploitation". The project plans to publish:

Both the register and the guide will be organised according to vertical market application and will include links to more detailed sources of information.

URL: IBSI http://www.decade.be/ibsi/index.htm
URL: KITE http://kite.tsa.de/

Secure Electronic Marketplace for Europe (SEMPER)

Secure Electronic Marketplace for Europe (SEMPER) is a European R&D project in the area of secure electronic commerce over open networks, especially the Internet. It is a European-based response to a number of e-commerce initiatives which have their roots in the USA (see CommerceNet and OBI below). It is executed by an interdisciplinary consortium, combining experts from social sciences, finance, retail, publishing, IT and telecommunications.

SEMPER is part of the European Commission's ACTS Programme (Advanced Communications Technologies and Services), funding is provided by the partner organisations, the European Union and the Swiss Federal Department for Education and Science.

URL: http://www.semper.org/

ESPRIT and ACTS projects on Electronic Commerce

A list of electronic commerce projects supported by the EU in the field of Information Technologies (ESPRIT) and Advanced Communications Technologies and Services (ACTS) is available from the "Electronic Commerce and the European Union " web site. Brief descriptions of the projects are listed under four headings:

URL: http://www.cordis.lu/esprit/src/ecomint.htm

E-commerce research in Europe

The European Initiative in Electronic Commerce has published descriptions of more than 350 projects in the field of electronic commerce which took place during the 4th Framework Programme. Entitled: "Accelerating Electronic Commerce in Europe", the publication is available via the web and includes projects which cover a broad spectrum of research in a wide range of industry sectors.

Digital Commerce Center

EC2 Annenberg Incubator Project, the multimedia business incubator and research facility at the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Communication, has announced its latest online resource, the Digital Commerce Center. The aim of the Center is to "help businesses compete in the new world of digital commerce through an understanding and application of digital technology, information and media".

Digital Commerce Center contains research and resources in the areas of electronic commerce, Internet advertising, digital asset management, media convergence, research translation, organisational knowledge, small business development, and corporate education. The Center provides forums for business leaders, entrepreneurs, academics, technologists and media experts to understand and communicate critical issues in digital commerce. 23/05/00

URL: EC2 home page http://www.ec2.edu/


CommerceNet is a not-for-profit consortium of over 250 companies dedicated to advancing electronic commerce. The consortium runs many pilot programmes to address technology issues with the aim of fostering development and acceptance of e-commerce.

E-commerce systems that interoperate

In an attempt to overcome potential problems of interoperability between different e-commerce implementations the Consortium has devloped an object-oriented framework called eCo System. The framework is built-up of four layers:

In order to facility interoperation between layers they are also developing a Common Business Language (CBL) with the aim that different application agents will be able to "talk" with each other.

eCo framework launched

CommerceNet has launched the eCo Interoperability Framework, its set of specifications (based on XML) to support interoperability among e-business implementations. "eCo compliance means freedom from limited e-commerce solutions," said Randall Whiting, CEO of CommerceNet. "With the eCo Framework, e-commerce solutions can seamlessly interoperate in a world where tools such as agents and auctions are starting to impact almost every business process." The eCo Interoperability Framework consists of two components:

The emergence of metaprotocols solves standardisation issues

Since many applications are being developed and few standards have dominance, it seems that application vendors in this arena will achieve interoperability between systems through the agreement of what are becoming known as metaprotocols. Essentially, systems will support multiple protocols and "negotiate" with each other which to use to achieve interoperation.

The Joint Electronic Payment Initiative (JEPI) is just such an approach. The project run by CommerceNet and the W3C aims to develop a negotiation protocol where a customer's online wallet "negotiates" an acceptable payment mechanism with the merchant terminal. For more information see the JEPI white paper..

URL: CommerceNet http://www.commerce.net/
URL: Eco System http://www.commerce.net/eco
URL: JEPI white paper http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Payments/white-paper.html

UK e-commerce test bed

CommerceNet is developing an e-commerce test bed in the UK, to act as a technology showcase for software, hardware and transaction services. The consortium hope that participants will develop applications across a number of vendor configurations. Sixteen vendors have agreed to supply resources (software expertise, systems integration and technical support) to the test bed which will be built over a three month period and will be available for development and evaluation for a further nine months.

XML document library announced

The Commerce One Common Business Library (CBL) 2.0, is a set of XML building blocks and a document framework that allows the creation of XML documents for electronic commerce. To enable companies to preserve their investment in existing standards such as traditional Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), CBL 2.0 plans to provide a transition path to an XML-based commerce capability. CBL 2.0 is designed to take advantage of the expressive power of XML schemata and will be released in three different schema languages:

According to the press release making the announcement, the specification has been endorsed by Microsoft's BizTalk initiative, OASIS, the UN/CEFACT Techniques and Methodologies Working Group, and CommerceNet and its eCo Framework Project and Working Group.

Internet Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)


An Internet Engineering Task Force workgroup covering EDI (EDIINT) has recommended standards for secure, interoperable electronic data interchange over the Internet.

Member companies have demonstrated exchange of documents over SMTP using the Secure MIME (S/MIME) protocol. Two draft standards have been proposed: MIME-based secure EDI, and EDIINT functional specifications.

Descriptions are available which outline the functional requirements of Internet-based EDI systems: encryption; key management; content integrity; authentication; non-repudiation of receipt; error handling.

URL: http://www.ietf.org/ids.by.wg/ediint.html

Transport mechanisms

Those interested in Internet-EDI transport mechanisms should subscribe to the IETF Internet EDI mailing list. Server: Majordomo@imc.org; List: ietf-ediint; List Address: ietf-ediint@imc.org.

URL: List Request mailto: ietf-ediint-request@imc.org
URL: List Admin mailto: phoffman@imc.org
URL: Archive http://www.imc.org/ietf-ediint/


RosettaNet is a consortium of technology companies attempting to define guidelines for product descriptions and inventory descriptors. The intention is to agree a common format which would lead to the easier introduction of online ordering. Ultimately, widespread use could enable greater interoperability and more sophisticated online catalogues and user-based e-commerce services.

RosettaNet has opened a European operation in Geneva, in order to "identify and integrate specific European requirements of companies participating in a global initiative to align supply chain interface ebusiness processes within the information technology (IT) and electronic component (EC) industries".

Since 1998, RosettaNet has focused on building and developing basic supply chain interface process standards. Having validated the technical aspects of RosettaNet's Partner Interface Processes (PIPs), members are testing a variety of implementations prior to a scheduled production system rollout in February 2000.

RosettaNet announced the release of the first 10 XML Partner Interface Processes (PIPs) at the beginning of December 1999. PIPs are defined as "specialised system-to-system XML-based dialogs that define how business processes are conducted between IT manufacturers, software publishers, distributors, resellers and corporate end users".

URL: http://www.rosettanet.org/

X12-XML technical report

The Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X12 is producing a technical report into the methodology for moving the X12 standards for electronic data interchange (EDI) into XML syntax. A draft report is expected by June 1999 with final publication of the recommendations scheduled for October 1999. ASC stated that they see: "X12-XML as a way to extend the benefits of EDI to a new community of users while at the same time preserving existing investments in X12-based technology and standards". The Data Interchange Standards Association (DISA) is the not-for-profit corporation that serves as the secretariat for ASC X12, which was chartered by the American National Standards Institute to develop US cross-industry standards for EDI.

URL: DISA http://www.disa.org

E-commerce and XML

Standard XML/EDI business specifications

The United Nations body for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) and OASIS have established the Electronic Business XML Initiative (ebXML) to develop a technical framework that will enable XML to be utilised in a consistent manner for the exchange of all electronic business data. Industry groups currently working on XML specifications have been invited to participate in the 18 month project. The results of the Electronic Business XML Initiative will be placed in the public domain on XML.org.

UN/CEFACT is the United Nations body whose mandate covers worldwide policy and technical development in the area of trade facilitation and electronic business.  Headquartered in Geneva, it has developed and promoted many tools for the facilitation of global business processes including UN/EDIFACT, the international EDI standard.  Its current work programme includes such topics as Simpl-edi and Object Oriented edi and it strongly supports the development and implementation of open inter-operable, global standards and specifications for electronic business.

URL: UN/CEFACT http://www.unece.org/cefact
URL: OASIS http://www.oasis-open.org/
URL: XML.org http://www.xml.org/

ebXML - first specs released

The first ebXML Initiative Technical Specifications has been released for public comment. The ebXML Requirements Specification is available for download and articulates the overall business requirements for ebXML, and defines specific technical infrastructure requirements that will be addressed by the various ebXML Project Teams in preparing their deliverables. 17/03/00

Under the guidance of UN/CEFACT and OASIS, electronic business experts representing standards organisations, industry consortia and companies from around the world gathered in Brussels for a working meeting, hosted by CEN/ISSS, that marked the six-month point in the ebXML initiative's 18-month charter.

Highlights of the meeting included the approval of the ebXML Requirements Specification and a proof-of-concept demonstration for the routing and enveloping of ebXML messages.

Participation in ebXML remains open to all interested parties. Current information on all the ebXML project teams is available from the project web site. 23/05/00

URL: ebXML http://www.ebxml.org/
URL: UN/CEFACT http://www.uncefact.org/
URL: OASIS http://www.oasis-open.org/

Guide to business XML

David Webber, one of the prime-movers in setting-up the EDI/XML discussion list, has announced the GUIDE initiative which he explains is designed to help businesses in the implemention of XML based business processes, particularly in the context of ebXML. Further information is available from the web site. 22/09/00


The UK's Business & Accounting Software Developers' Association (BASDA) is running it's eBIS-XML initiative to develop "a standard many-to-many interface, to enable business systems to exchange orders and invoices by email". According to BASDA, it is also working with a number of UK Government departments in the UK GovTalk initiative helping to define XML interfaces for the electronic submission of personal tax forms. 25/07/00

URL: http://www.basda.org/

Visa XML Invoice Spec.

The Visa Enhanced Data Service provides Visa Commercial Card clients with purchase information over and above that contained in the payment transaction. A recent development is Visa XML Invoice Specification which the company hope will provide a cross-industry, interoperable message format to enable processing of enhanced data across regions and industry sectors on a growing number of systems and reporting packages.

The specification contains a comprehensive list of data elements contained in most invoices, and Visa is working with several international XML governing bodies, including ebXML, for its official adoption as a standard. Available for download are the Visa XML Invoice Implementation Guide, a General XML Invoice Implementation Guide and an XML Invoice Technical Pack, Version 1.0. 18/02/00

URL: contact email mailto:xmlspec@visa.com
URL: http://www.visa.com/ut/dnld/spec.ghtml

Trading Partner Agreement Markup Language (tpaML)

IBM has submitted a specification for defining and implementing electronic contracts to the XML.org initiative. Based on XML, The Trading Partner Agreement Markup Language (tpaML) enables companies to automate business-to-business (B2B) transactions, by defining how trading partners interact. 15/02/00

URL: http://www.ibm.com/software/developer/library/tpaml.html

E-commerce framework based on EDI/XML proposed

The EDI/XML group have published a document entitled: "The E-commerce Framework" which acts as an Executive Summary of XML/EDI Frameworks. The document focuses on the business reasons for selecting XML/EDI. Providing a technology overview it explains how XML/EDI can be deployed, the advantages it brings, and analyses the potential benefits for early adopters.

Proponents of EDI/XML cite advantages of closer cooperation between the developers in the field of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and those developing eXtensible Markup Language (XML). Whilst there is considerable interest in the potential utility of XML in the area of E-Commerce, it should be noted that many developers in the EDI arena are sceptical concerning the potential benefits of using XML above those offered by established messaging standards such as X.12.

Creating XML/EDI DTDs

The ISIS XML/EDI Project Consortium has released a document entitled: "Best Practices for Creating XML/EDI DTDs".  The documentation comprises:

The Best Practices documentation, available on the ISIS XML/EDI Project web site, is a draft for public comment and will be revised in light of comments received. The documentation will be presented to a number of standardisation committees for review.

XML e-commerce "repository"

The group has published a draft of it's XML repositories documents for public comment. The initiative states the objectives for the move is to:

The group believes that the XML repositories will provide a means to store on the web the document type definitions (DTDs) exchanged among parties doing business electronically. They believe in a "common registration procedure", stating that: "repositories will act as global libraries, and enable industry groups, government agencies, and businesses of all sizes to make their preferred message formats widely available to current and potential trading partners".

There is a further topic page on EDI and XML on this site, which includes a number of links to useful resources concerned with e-commerce.

Philippe Vijghen has published a paper entitled: "Cost-Effective EDI Using XML? A Pivot-Based Approach".

URL: XML/EDI group http://www.geocities.com/WallStreet/Floor/5815

Common data elements for e-commerce?

Veo Systems has proposed Version 1.1 of is Common Business Library (CBL) specification to CommerceNet and RosettaNet to provide the standard, defined XML tags for electronic commerce. The CBL specification defines a set of common XML data elements for the exchange of catalogue content, purchase orders, and invoices.

The European XML/EDI Pilot Project

The European XML/EDI Pilot Project plans to test the use of XML for electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions. There is an email discussion group (join at the website) and a support centre is planned.

URL: XML/EDI Pilot project http://www.cenorm.be/isss/workshop/ec/xmledi/isss-xml.html
URL: Mission statement http://www.cenorm.be/isss/workshop/ec/xmledi/mission.html

Financial message format for the web proposed

The Financial Services Technology Consortium (FSTC) has published two white papers on messaging format structures for e-commerce ("SDML Specifications 2.0" and "SDML/XML Comparison"). Both documents were prepared by members of the FSTC Electronic Check Project team. The first is a detailed description of the FSTC-developed Signed Document Markup Language (SDML). The second document is an analysis of the issues associated with making SDML compliant with the Extensible Markup Language (XML). In addition, the FSTC intends to submit a proposal to the W3C to start a project that would integrate the capabilities found in SDML into a future release of XML.

The FSTC is a consortium of US banks, financial services providers, national laboratories, universities, and government agencies who sponsor and participate in non-competitive collaborative research and development on interbank technical projects.

URL: http://www.fstc.org/

WIDL: application integration with XML

In a bid to address the problem of direct access to web data from within business applications, the Web Interface Definition Language (WIDL) is being proposed. It is an application of XML with the aim of: "enabling the automation of all interactions with HTML/XML documents and forms, providing a general method of representing request/response interactions over standard web protocols". A paper entitled "WIDL: Application Integration with XML" which discuses the issues is published on the web.

URL: http://webMethods.com/technology/Automating.html

Financial Products Markup Language (FpML)

JP Morgan and PricewaterhouseCoopers proposed FpML (financial products markup language), a protocol for Internet-based electronic dealing and information sharing of financial derivatives, initially handling interest rate and foreign exchange products. The companies are hoping that the protocol, based on XML, will become a standard in developing e-commerce systems.

JP Morgan is reportedly working on a suite of client services that employ FpML, including trade execution, confirmation, valuation, risk analysis, and the exchange of market data. Whilst, PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it will use FpML to: "address financial and operational risk management issues for its clients and will also support the industry's adoption of FpML and related solutions".

The first working draft of the FpML (financial products markup language) standard is now available from the download area of the FpML.org web site.  In order to make it easier to download, the document has been separated into 3 parts: an overview of FpML; the components and DTDs; the sample FpML.

Information about the organisation; the schedule of upcoming FpML seminars; and the list of proposed working groups will be posted on the web site shortly.

URL: FpML http://www.fpml.org

E-commerce Modeling Language (ECML)

GlobeID, an e-commerce vendor, claims to have performed the "world's first secure Internet purchases using the Electronic Commerce Modeling Language (ECML) standard". The ECML format, announced in early June 1999 by a consortium of technology companies, including AOL, IBM, Microsoft, Compaq, CyberCash, along with Visa, Mastercard and American Express, should enable "real-time Internet transaction applications". ECML, is essentially a set of XML tags that merchants will be asked to use on their merchant servers to make form completion easier. This approach should ensure interoperability with other modules in the e-commerce chain, enabling the automation of information exchange between customer and merchant.

URL: GlobeID http://www.globeid.com

Open Buying on the Internet (OBI) specification

Open Buying on the Internet (OBI) is a specification being put forward by a consortium of companies in the US. The specification:"lays the foundation for interoperable EDI over the Internet, especially for small purchases." The standard will be administered through a non-profit organization, called the OBI Consortium. The consortium will offer opportunities to learn more about the standard and its implementation. It also plans to undertake necessary revisions of the standard and contribute to the ongoing development of other business-to-business Internet commerce standards.

The "standard" contains an architecture, detailed technical specifications and guidelines, and compliance and implementation information. A top level white paper of the specification has been released and the consortium plan to develop this. The architecture uses the EDI 850 transaction set, adapts it for IP delivery, and builds in the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and digital security certificates.

OBI V2.0 standard released

OBI V2.0 is the first "open" standard for high volume business-to-business purchasing transactions over the Internet. The OBI V2.0 specification has been developed by representatives from Office Depot, Lockheed, Microsoft, barnesandnoble.com, Netscape, and, American Express among others.

An OBI Interoperability Showcase, is planned for CommerceNet 99, where technology vendors as well as selling and purchasing organisations will demonstrate OBI-enabled procurement solutions. In addition to these demonstrations, the Showcase will launch the OBI Compliance Programme, to ensure OBI compliance in participating members' products.

URL: OBI V2.0 http://www.openbuy.org/obi/specs/obiv2.html
URL: white paper http://www.openbuy.org/obi/library/white-paper.html
URL: CommerceNet 99 http://www.commerce.net/cn99
URL: OBI Consortium http://www.openbuy.org/

Information and Content Exchange (ICE) Protocol

The Information and Content Exchange (ICE) Protocol has been submitted to the W3C for consideration as a Recommendation. The complete Submission Request, submitted materials, and W3C Team Comment, is available on the web and describes the ICE protocol for use by content syndicators and their subscribers. Further information about ICE, along with the latest ICE specification is published on the GCA's web site.
URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-ice
URL: http://www.w3.org/Submission/1998/18/

ICE Version 1.1 announced

The Information and Content Exchange (ICE) Working Group has released ICE Version 1.1 of the digital asset exchange standard. The ICE standard, an initiative hosted by IDEAlliance, aims to reduce the cost of doing business online and increase the value of B2B relationships.

ICE (using XML) facilitates the controlled exchange and management of electronic assets between networked partners and affiliates. Applications based on ICE allow companies to construct syndicated publishing networks.

Key enhancements added to the latest version include: Controlled Extensibility, Generalized Parameter Negotiation, Delivery Policy Controls on Referenced ICE Items, Carefully Specified Inter-Operability Semantics. There is further information on the web sites below. 30/06/00

URL: ICE http://www.icestandard.org/
URL: IDEAlliance http://www.idealliance.org/

Open Trading Protocol Standard

The Open Trading Protocol (OTP) Consortium, a group of over 30 companies, has released a draft standard aimed at the retail trade on the Internet. Available for public comment, pilot implementation and trials - the Open Trading Protocol is published at the OTP website. The site provides the OTP specification, resources and an email forum for the exchange of comments between merchants, vendors and financial institutions.

A press release accompanying the announcement claimed that: "the OTP standards provide a framework for multiple forms of electronic commerce, ensuring an easy-to-use and consistent consumer purchasing experience regardless of the payment instrument or software and hardware product used". The protocol is freely available to developers and users, builds on XML, and its development will be managed by the OTP Consortium.

The OTP standards, which specify how Internet trading transactions can take place, are independent of the method of payment used, providing the following set of rules:

A reprint of a report published in the UK's Financial Times on Virtual Finance and the concepts behind shopping protocols such as OTP is available in PDF format from the author, David Birch.

URL: http://www.otp.org
URL: David Birch mailto:daveb@hyperion.co.uk

Mobile E-commerce

The Mobey Forum (pronounced Mo-Bay) is a financial industry-driven forum, whose mission is to encourage the use of mobile technology in financial services. The formation of the Mobey Forum was publicly announced by 14 world-leading financial institutions and mobile manufacturers on May 10, 2000. Further details from the Forum's web site. 16/05/00

URL: http://www.mobeyforum.org/

E-commerce and Java

The Java Electronic Commerce Framework (JECF) provides a model for incorporating Java within e-commerce solutions, further details are available from a number of web pages.

URL: http://java.sun.com/products/commerce/index.html

E-Commerce in Japan

The Electronic Commerce Promotion Project, partially funded by the Japanese government, consists of 19 test-bed projects providing various kinds of electronic commerce between consumers and businesses. In addition the Electronic Commerce Promotion Council of Japan (ECOM) was established in early 1996 to study a wide range of EC related issues.

Vendors of E-Commerce systems

The links to vendor pages listed in the product information section provides good links to further information on E-Commerce systems, network payment mechanisms and digital cash, secure online commerce and "cyber-banking" with a more commercial bias.

Electronic signature standardisation

European Telecommunications Standards Institute's (ETSI) draft on electronic signature standardisation for business transactions is now available on the web. The standardisation work is in response to the European Commission initiative in support of a common framework for electronic signatures. The aim of the first set of standards is to meet the minimum requirements for interoperability of electronic signatures used in secure business transactions, enabling the development of secure e-commerce.

The scope of the current proposal covers a range of standardisation activities, including:

Comments on the draft are being encouraged by ETSI, with a final draft of the standard being scheduled for publication in September 1999. The work is being carried out within the framework of the European Electronic Signature Standardisation Initiative (EESSI).

URL: draft standard http://www.etsi.org/sec/el-sign.htm
URL: EESSI http://www.ict.etsi.org

Online software sales strategies

Electronic license distribution could account for about half of the total market for software acquisition by 2002, and Microsoft Corp. remains among the leading companies that will drive industry standards as this market matures, according to a new research report series published by International Data Corporation (IDC).

"Microsoft is a clear leader in driving channel and end-user acceptance of both the promise and the necessity of electronic license distribution as a key underpinning for online software sales strategies," said Stephen Graham, vice president of IDC's Software Channel and Alliance Strategies research group and author of IDC's recent bulletin, "Software Giants Go Online".

Other vendors, such as Computer Associates and Novell, are now beginning to broaden online sales strategies. Oracle, meanwhile, continues to add capabilities for customer self-service to its Oracle Store and promises to expand its online strategy to take costs out of its own system while enabling customers to more easily acquire and better manage their software assets. IBM and Lotus continue to follow hybrid strategies that enable multiple channel players, including online service providers, along with direct sales capability.

According to IDC's research both vendors and end users are searching for signs of emerging standards and vendors are seeking to emulate the initiatives of other market leaders to make their products easier to buy. The bulletin is part of a new 10-part Software eChannels Research Report Series presented by IDC to map the most important components in the evolution of the Internet as a channel for software vendors.

URL: further information mailto:ctoffel@idc.com
URL: IDC http://www.idc.com/

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