"We are on the verge of a revolution that is just as profound as the change in the economy that came with the industrial revolution. Soon electronic networks will allow people to transcend the barriers of time and distance and take advantage of global markets and business opportunities not even imaginable today, opening up a new world of economic possibility and progress."

Vice President Albert Gore, Jr. (A Framework For Global Electronic Commerce)

Electronic commerce, or e-commerce, is the buying and selling of goods through an online medium. It is demonstrated via companies such as Amazon and e-bay but also online banking or online transaction processing.

Electronic Commerce started in the late 1970's with technologies such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). EDI allowed businesses to exchange data between networks in a structured fashion, where EFT allowed for electronic exchange of funds and other banking transactions. From this grew internet shopping, developed by Michael Aldrich in 1979 and now widely used.

With the development of the internet browser in 1990 the internet was made much more available to the non-business, non-technical user. This led to a wide variety of web services being developed as business awoke to the potential. Now people can go online to do a wide variety of commercial activities whether it is online financial transactions, shopping or getting access to services and software.

There are a number of issues that arise due to electronic commerce.

  • Taxation and customs

    Since the internet doesn't truly have geographic boundaries it can be hard to say that a particular good or service is being imported and exported. This is because the legislation and framework for international trade is based in more traditional, physical forms of commerce.

  • Intellectual property

    A large amount of trade conducted online involves copyrighted material. Since online trade can often be simple data, such as music or pictures, this makes breaching copyright fairly simple and easy.

  • Privacy

    While engaging in e-commerce users can end up volunteering a large amount of data. This could be contact , medical or even financial information.