The Past of E-Commerce

Before the birth of the Internet, back in the archaic days of the Arpanet, e-commerce began impacting the way that businesses operated. E-commerce, or the selling of products and services via an electronic system, began as an activity solely for businesses.

In 1968, the introduction of the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) made it possible for companies to interface and trade without any human contact. The EDI, although the first step in e-commerce, lacks much significance as a medium of commerce because it was not supported by most businesses. Even the companies that did use EDI lacked compatibility with other EDI supporting companies with different computers. The cost of having an EDI system that allowed commercial trade with all the necessary suppliers, purchasers and subsidiaries during this time was tremendous, and therefore failed to meet the needs of most organizations.

The EDI remained in its initial state until 1984 when the ASC X12 standard was adopted, allowing for full communication between any EDI supported companies. This was a tremendous bound for e-commerce because companies could now transfer information on its needs for supplies and recieve demands from other companies directly through their computer systmems. The ASC X12 revolution turned e-commerce from a commercial novelty to commercial standard, but still left the scope of e-commerce unfullfilled.

The introduction of the Internet to the masses marks the beginning of e-commerce in mass markets. In other words, e-commerce went from the world of wholesale to the world of retail. In 1989, roughly 100,000 people were online in the United States, a small fraction of the multi-million people online in 1994. It was in 1994 that Netscape was introduced to the public as an easy-to-use web browser that allowed common people to surf the net without having to use UNIX command-line language. Microsoftís Internet Explorer soon followed and increased the number of Internet users to over 14 million by 1995. Although the Internet was growing in popularity, only 10% of the population was online at this time.

Businesses were beginning to understand the importance of online shoppers and made $500 million during the 1996 holiday season from the new market. By offering a variety of items online that were for sale in their stores, retail companies pioneered e-commerce. Focus groups and user feed-back led to easily accessible sites that offered a full medley of styles and sizes with few hassles in respect to shipping and returns. The 90ís also saw the birth of online retail companies, or businesses that existed solely on the Internet. Other companies, such as Land's End, expanded from a catalog company to a primarily Internet based company. The retail industry also expanded itís services online, adding personal models (3-dimensional representations that model clothes), credit card approval online and multiple shipping addresses for sending gifts around the country during the holidays as a single transaction.

The beginning of e-commerce was humble, but over the past 30 years it has grown from an arcane hassle to a modern tool. Not only has e-commerce revolutionized the world of wholesale, but also retail. The ever-growing Internet population has embraced the online world as a way to fullfill their needs in several industries, and businesses are continually searching for new ways to meet the needs of the online market.