It has been a busy month for followers of electronic commerce. With announcement after announcement, and strategy after strategy, some of you may have difficulty in keeping abreast of what?s what. Just in case you missed the news as it was happening, here?s a brief digest.
Electronic Systems Corp launches its latest initiative. ?We believe the future lies in smart cards as a payment mechanism, although smart cards have no intelligence in themselves,? a spokesperson says. ?But we also believe the network computer will be an important factor. Although it has been described as a dumb terminal, we think that it?s a smart move.
?So, just to clarify: we think that the dumb smart card terminates in a smart dumb terminal. We understand that many of you are confused, and we hope that this will help.?
A new development in the problems over the export of encryption technology. The US government floats the idea that strong encryption might be made available in the future for countries that qualify under the ABF ruling. What is ABF? ?Anywhere But France? reveals a policy wonk.
After almost a week when no announcements about the future of electronic commerce were made, the silence is broken by San Jose startup Small Change Systems. ?We think that exporting encryption technology is a side issue that has deflected our attention from the real issues,? says MD Eric Bogle.
?What really matters is a definite, non-repudiable transaction. This is only achievable when a Token is exchanged. We are not announcing any products today, but instead are trying to form a policy initiative to unite all the major players behind one Token architecture. In recognition of the probability that it will succeed, we?re calling it ?Token Effort?.?
Anger in France at the US government?s ABF programme. ?Just because our laws are bizarre and unfair doesn?t mean we should be frozen out of the advance of economic commerce,? says Frank LeBlanc, French minster for jargon.
?Our biggest challenge is to be taken seriously. Who holds the key to decipher encrypted messages? Can people find the Token and alter the transaction? If the Token?s woken and you free the key you can massage the message. That?s not a funny situation to be in.?
Angry policy wonks announce that they renounce and denounce the practical tactical measures taken by the French. ?A third party has to see the key,? says the trade department. ?There?s nothing that can be done. If the transaction reaction makes retailers fear the idea this year, then we?ll review what we do. Until then, we?ll encrypt what?s shipped, and if the French insist that the deadlines should slip, we?ll flip. The French should know that SET?s the best bet yet.?
Monsieur LeBlanc angrily dismisses the American position. ?This is getting silly,? he says. ?The entire world is confused over the structure of secure transactions. We all know this commerce is a curse, and it?s getting worse.? Later, he fired his translator.
At Small Change Systems, Bogle tries to put the escalating row into context. ?I feel that a lot of people are getting very upset over a small issue,? he says. ?It is so far unspoken that if the Token is broken then ... I?m sorry, I can?t continue with this.?
Electronic Systems Corp joins the argument. ?Let?s look at this on a more specific level,? says UK product manager Walter Psalter. ?E-cash is a mish-mash, it?s the payment systems that matter. Switch is a bitch but Delta?s a belter. Paying by Mastercard is hard, American Express caused a lot of stress but Visa?s getting easier.
?We?ve successfully completed trials with Air Miles and it?s Mondex next. What bothers us is that so few people in the press seem to take electronic commerce seriously. Perhaps it?s because they don?t understand the details.?
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