You might not realize it, but the history of e commerce started before the first Internet connection. Things started happening in the 1960s, over 40 years ago, that were crucial steps along the way bringing us to the level of e commerce we have today.
First, the EDI was developed in the 60s. EDI means Electronic Data Interchange. This is a set of standards for electronic transactions and the exchange of business information. Even with this development, many companies still couldn’t do business electronically with each other because there were different EDI formats. But in 1984, one EDI, the ASC X12, became the standard for transferring large amounts of transactions, and was adapted quickly by those institutions who wanted to do business electronically.
Eight years later in 1992, the first point and click web browser was developed, called Mosaic. Then the first downloadable browser, Netscape, was developed based on Mosaic, and this gave people with Internet access the ability to participate in electronic commerce. This was really the first step in the history of e commerce that lead to the widespread e commerce usage we see today.
DSL or high-speed Internet let more users take advantage of e commerce with more convenience, with the holiday season of 1998 setting a record of the most e commerce sales until that point. Online sales for AOL during that 10-week Christmas season topped 1 billion.
Red Hat Linux was developed, giving computer users a choice. No longer was Windows the only option, consumers could opt for reliable and open-sourced Linux, instead. Now that there was competition, Windows began expanding its ability to handle e commerce.
Napster was founded in 1999, and even though it started out as a way for users to share music files for free, its development was an important step in the history of e commerce. As it became more and more popular, consumers had a say in what they hoped to get from such a site, and e commerce and the entire industry, in general. Then, in 2000, AOL and Time Warner merged, combining a completely online company with an old and established traditional company. By then, Yahoo, eBay and Amazon.com were popular sites, their names synonymous with Internet use and e commerce. Hackers attached each of these sites in 2000, demonstrating the need for higher Internet security, particularly where e commerce was concerned. In the history of e commerce, this started the push for secure ordering and more secure browser interfaces.
Traditional companies started adapting for e commerce, and now almost every major retail player has an online presence where it’s easy and convenient to order electronically, like Sears, Wal-Mart and Borders bookstores. In 2001, business-to-business transactions alone accounted for $700 billion dollars changing hands.
With more people discovering the convenience of shopping from home than ever, it’s clear that the history of e commerce isn’t a closed book, but will continue to change as online shopping becomes more and more popular.