The top 10 developments in the world of e-commerce

The past 10 years have seen many changes in the world of e-commerce: Wi-Fi connectivity, the BlackBerry and even iTunes and YouTube have all dramatically impacted business, government and personal computing. To mark these developments, a top 10 list has been compiled by industry experts.

The top 10 list of developments that have most impacted electronic commerce was released yesterday by the Washington-based Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA). The list also holds significance in the fact that it was 10 years ago that the White House released its framework for global electronic commerce.

SIIA president Ken Wasch said that e-commerce has provided a vehicle for growth of the global economy and sparked the delivery of a multitude of innovative products and services.

“These developments reflect the unique nature of the Internet, which has allowed creativity, ingenuity and entrepreneurship to flourish,” said Wasch.

He noted that the list includes developments in e-commerce that were not around 10 years ago, such as broadband access and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Recent developments like iTunes were also included in the list. Policy and industry experts selected by SIIA staff were tasked with ranking the top 10.

SIIA’s top 10 e-commerce developments of the last decade:

1. Google (Sept. 1998): Google did more to fundamentally change the way we use the Internet than any other event in the last 10 years. The simple search engine that began with a couple of smart guys is now used by 30 per cent of Internet users to help find precisely what we’re looking for online, map our world, create simple yet highly targeted advertisements and much more. Americans conducted 6.9 billion searches online in February 2007 and nearly half of those were on Google.

2. Broadband penetration of U.S. Internet users reaches 50 per cent (June 2004): When the information superhighway first opened, it felt more like an old dirt road – until broadband released its full potential. Available and affordable broadband took longer than expected to arrive – but when it finally reached 50 per cent penetration in 2004, a milestone was reached that signaled a dramatic change in how commerce gets done online, how consumers use and share content, and how the world communicates. It took broadband roughly four years to reach 50 per cent- but it is estimated that it will reach 90 per cent penetration of Internet users by the end of the year.

3. eBay auctions (launched Sept. 1997): eBay showed us that the Internet could be used to reach massive national – and even global – markets better and faster than ever before. The launch empowered hundreds of thousands of power sellers to quit their day jobs and work exclusively online. Individuals could also compete directly with each other in ways unimaginable in a physical market.

4. (IPO May 1997): Amazon showed the world what an online store would look like and made online shopping popular through its ease of use and wide selection. Amazon’s public offering told the world that online commerce is legitimate and here to stay. It signaled the increasingly important role that e-commerce would play in the American economy.

5. Google AdWords (2000): Key word advertising has become the biggest online advertising vehicle, representing 40 per cent market share and $6.8 billion in revenue. Keyword ads are the simplest and most cost-effective mechanism to reach targeted audiences, affordable to even the smallest business.

6. Open standards (HTML 4.0 released 1997): The standards for the web embodied in HTML are overseen by the World Wide Web Consortium, which is not controlled by any company or government. The formats are open, well documented and designed to work with different software and hardware. It has probably been the most influential and important data standard in the history of publishing. Open standards can grow an entire industry, leaving more room and more opportunity for everyone.

7. Wi-Fi (802.11 launched 1997): From desk to board room to beach, connectivity is never lost and communication is never delayed. The development of Wi-Fi removed the limitations of desktops and cables and shifted focus toward mobile solutions. Wireless internet enabled road warriors to be connected anywhere in industries like real estate, transportation, travel, and financial services.

8. User-generated content (YouTube 2005): Right now it is impossible to say what the full ramifications of the “citizen journalist” era will be – but the dramatic impact of YouTube tells us more than any other recent development. At first a playground for kids with video cameras, YouTube is now the embodiment of Web 2.0. It is a must-be-seen place for presidential candidates, a battleground in the copyright wars, a vital distribution point for major media – and most of all, a place where anyone…absolutely anyone…can deliver a message to the world.

9. iTunes (2001): In the aftermath of Napster and the P2P battles, iTunes legitimized the digital music industry, revolutionizing the music industry. The importance of CDs declined while music as digital content grew, leading to developments in everything from digital rights management software to increased bandwidth use. Today, more than US$2 billion worth of music was sold online or through mobile phones in 2006 (trade revenues), almost doubling the market in the last year. Digital sales now account for around 10 per cent of the music market.

10. BlackBerry (1999): The BlackBerry makes communication instantaneous, and mobile. A comprehensive communications device creates a new mobile business culture. Giving road warriors the freedom to move to any location and maintain connectivity increases cooperation and efficiency. By having the Web in the palm of your hand, Internet connected devices enable ecommerce anywhere, anytime.

Related content:

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New think tank advocates broadband incentives

Google launches municipal Wi-Fi network

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