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Recipe for e-commerce

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The article focuses on Internet economics and examines some of the more controversial and often misunderstood aspects of shopping on the Web, such as transaction security and the much maligned Magic Cookie. Knowing more about the technologies behind commercial Web transactions can help make the Web a less scary place to type in your credit card number. The Web was never designed to be a transaction oriented environment. The basic transport protocol of the Web-HTTP-is a stateless environment; when combined with TCP/IP's packet switched mechanics, it makes for one heck of a wild ride. Not only can you not connect to and maintain an ongoing session within a Web server, but you can't even maintain a continuous and uninterrupted packet stream with that server. HTTP guarantees that every link you click is a completely new and complete transaction with a beginning and an end, and TCP/IP ensures that every packet composing that brief connection is first accounted for and then immediately forgotten. This environment, while advantageous for some applications, is problematic for conducting online commerce. The difficulty imposed by the Web's stateless environment manifests itself in two primary areas: securing the transaction and payment, and tracking the customer's shopping session. A third but slightly less difficult obstacle is recognizing a customer when they return to a site at another time, which from a marketing perspective is very important. We look at each of these problems and how they are being overcome in today's online commerce environment

Published in:

Internet Computing, IEEE  (Volume:1 ,  Issue: 6 )

Date of Publication:

Nov/Dec 1997

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