E-commerce has become the easiest way to buy and sell product or services. Even the oldest, strongly established retailers and service providers in the world have a presence on the Internet. For all the customers that go into Macy’s on a daily basis, there are as many that visit the store’s website putting items into a virtual shopping cart.
While the personal computer has ended up in every home over the last 25 years, what would eventually become e-commerce is historically traced back to the 70s. That’s when businesses began exchanging purchase orders and invoices electronically. This was possible through Electronic Funds Transfers (EFT) and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).
Arguably it could be seen further than that. Credit or charge card transactions have always been a type of electronic transaction. Suddenly, a consumer didn’t need to have cash on hand, or at all, to purchase necessities. We’ve been picking up the telephone for a very long time and ordering everything from vinyl records to toys since the 50s.
Still, it’s believed the modern age of e-commerce has to be attributed to the advent of EDIs and EFTs. Thanks to this tech, there wasn’t simply an extraordinary progression in the expansion and acceptance of credit cards and telephone banking, suddenly a consumer could conveniently pull funds from automated teller machines (ATMs).
Believe it or not, at one point commercial enterprise was prohibited on the Internet. The National Science Foundation (NSF) was monitoring this WorldWideWeb browser closely and saw far too much potential for abuse. Yet the Internet became far too popular worldwide to be ignored by even the most powerful pro or con organizations.
Of course the very risks the NSF feared became quite real. Such things as identity theft and fraud are to this day serious concerns. But in the 90s, security protocols, firewalls, encryptions and other safety measures were developed to protect consumers and businesses. As we approached the 21st Century, a large number of companies around the world were offering their services through the Internet. E-commerce became the fastest growing service in the world.
And so began the struggle to maintain a presence in the largest marketplace on the planet.