E-Commerce Learning Modules by Dr. Selia Karsten

Module One: E-Commerce Events


What do you know about e-commerce? Are you aware of the history and development of the World Wide Web? For a start, try testing your knowledge in this short quiz that accompanied Time's story about Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of amazon.com when he was named Person of the Year in 1999. Then hit your back button on the browser and continue this module.

E-Commerce Quiz

How did you do? In this module, you will be looking at the history of the Web and of e-commerce on the Web. You'll see timelines for the development of hypertext (words on the web that link to another site when you click on them) and for the Web itself. You'll think about the computer and the role it is playing in this great paradigm shift from doing business in real time and place to doing business virtually. The following news items give but a few of the major steps along the e-commerce way.

Resources for Events Related to E-Commerce:

1. News Items:

PC revolution . December 1980,
Apple goes public. Morgan Stanley and Co. and Hambrecht & Quist underwrite an initial public offering of 4.6 million shares of Apple common stock at a price of $22 per share. Every share is bought within minutes of the offering, making this the largest public offering since Ford went public in 1956.

WWW revolution. August 1995, Netscape Communications Corp., a 16-month-old Mountain View company was going public. Netscape issued 5 million shares to the public and kept another 33 million for executives, venture capitalists and other early backers. August,10 closing price left the company with market valuation of $1.96 billion " It was the biggest IPO in history.

The phrase Silicon Valley first  appeared in 1971 in a series of  articles that journalist Don C Hoefler  wrote for Electronic News, a weekly  industry tabloid.

Silicon Valley Gross Revenue: These days about 4,000 IT-related companies located along Highway 101 from San Francisco to San Jose, California generate approximately $200 billions in IT-related revenue annually.

2. History of Hypertext (the language of the web)

     Vannevar Bush (Science Advisor to president Roosevelt during WW2) proposes Memex.
     Ted Nelson coins the word "Hypertext"
     Andy van Dam et al build the Hypertext Editing System and FRESS
     Doug Engelbart demos NLS system at FJCC
     ZOG (now KMS) at CMU.
     Aspen Movie Map, first hypermedia videodisc, MIT.
     Filevision from Telos: hypermedia database for Macintosh
     Symbolics Document Examiner, Janet Walker.
     InterMedia, Brown University, N. Meyrowitz
     OWL introduces Guide, first widely available hypertext
     Apple introduces Hypercard, B. Atkinson.
     Hypertext'87 Workshop
     ECHT (European Conference on HyperText)

3. Bodies of the Web: The goals of each body are quite well-defined and separate.

The World-Wide Web Consortium. Jointly run by INRIA in Europe and MIT in the US. Members from all      over the world. Members sign a three-year contract and pay a fee, for which they get a variety of benefits such as access to advance information, participation in the development of the standards and protocols and so on. Members must be organizations or companies, there is no individual membership.

The W3C Team includes 59 people working from locations across the globe. W3C is hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Computer Science [MIT/LCS] in the United States, at the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique [INRIA] at various locations in France, and at the Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus in Japan. With a truly international flavor, the Team includes engineers from more than 10 different countries.
W3C People,
Who's Who at W3C

The International WWW Conference Committee. It organizes the series of academic-level conferences        about Web technology and development. It endorses local or regional conferences with the same goals.

Internet Society:
Forum for issues concerning the Internet, its protocols, the Internet Architecture Board, the Internet Engineering Task Force etc. Is not web-specific and not related to the W3C.

4. The creation of the Web and the work of Co-inventors of the Web: Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in late 1990 while working at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. He wrote the first WWW client (a browser-editor running under NeXTStep) and the first WWW server along with most of the communications software, defining URLs, HTTP and HTML. Prior to his work at CERN, Tim was a founding director of Image Computer Systems, a consultant in hardware and software system design, real-time communications graphics and text processing, and a principal engineer with Plessey Telecommunications in Poole, England. He is a graduate of Oxford University. Tim is now the overall Director of the W3C. He is a Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science.

Weaving the Web
Frequently Asked Questions)

Robert Cailliau works at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, where the World-Wide Web was conceived. He has worked with the Web from the beginning, and now runs the main CERN web service. He is also founding member and past Chairman of the IW3C2, the International WWW Conference Committee. He devotes part of his time to dissemination actions in the WWW Consortium. Formerly in programming language design and compiler construction, Robert has been interested in document production since 1975, when he designed and implemented a widely used document markup and formatting system.

IC Online Interview with Cailliau
Bring in the cyberpolice - a Forbes Global article on Cailliau (co-inventor of the Web)

5. Pre-History of the Web (adapted from a speech by Robert Cailliau)

In the following speech about the web Cailliau discusses two lines to be traced:
1. the development of hypertext, or the computer-aided reading of electronic documents, and
2. the development of the Internet protocols which made the global network possible.

Cailliau tells us that as early as 1945 Vannevar Bush, science adviser to President Roosevelt, writes about the Memex, a device (based on microfilm) for storing vast amounts of documents in a single desk, with mechanical aids for finding, organizing and adding to the repository.

Douglas Engelbart produces first hypertext system. These systems run on the expensive and enormous machines of the sixties, with even more expensive display systems. Engelbart is also the inventor of the mouse. Ted Nelson coins the term "Hypertext".

1972 DARPA starts research leading to the Internet. Originally conceived to connect research centres for data exchange, it is later adopted for military purposes. Its main characteristic is the automatic routing of information packets, circumventing the problem of network vulnerability through failure of single transmission nodes.

1979 Charles Goldfarb invents SGML. This idea separates content structure from presentation. Thus the same document can be rendered in different ways. HTML, the markup language of the Web, is an SGML application.

1975 Alan Kay produces the first personal computer (Xerox PARC). Many ideas had been tried, Kay invented overlapping window technology to produce a single-user personal machine driven by menu commands accessed by a mouse. This is used in many workstations in the beginning of the 80's and was popularized in the Apple Macintosh of 1984.

1981 "Literary Machines" (Ted Nelson) describes project Xanadu: a networked, world-wide system for publication, including collection of royalties and inclusion of existing material.

1987 CERN and the US laboratories connect to the Internet as the main means of exchanging data between the laboratories.

1989 The HEP community is small but spread all over the world. The physics research laboratories of the world have many collaborations, and the exchange of data and documents is a primordial activity. This environment is naturally ready to accept a system that facilitates such communication over networks. The adoption of the Internet as the standard academic network by CERN and its fellow laboratories in the US made the ground very fertile indeed. Late in the year 1989, Tim Berners-Lee proposes a networked Hypertext system for CERN. Robert Cailliau independently proposes a hypertext project for documentation handling inside the laboratory.

1990 CERN: A Joint proposal for a hypertext system is presented to the management. Mike Sendall buys a NeXT cube for evaluation, and gives it to Tim. Tim's prototype implementation on NeXTStep is made in the space of a few months, thanks to the qualities of the NeXTStep software development system. This prototype offers WYSIWYG browsing/authoring! Current Web browsers used in "surfing the Internet" are mere passive windows, depriving the user of the possibility to contribute. During some sessions in the CERN cafeteria, Tim and Cailliau try to find a catching name for the system. He was determined that the name should not yet again be taken from Greek mythology. Tim proposes "World-Wide Web". Cailliau liked this very much, except that it is difficult to pronounce in French.

1991 The prototype is very impressive, but the NeXTStep system is not widely spread. A simplified, stripped-down version (with no editing facilities) that can be easily adapted to any computer is constructed: the Portable "Line-Mode Browser". SLAC, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California, becomes the first Web server in USA. It serves the contents of an existing, large data base of abstracts of physics papers. Distribution of software over the Internet starts. The Hypertext'91 conference (San Antonio) allows us a "poster" presentation (but does not see any use of discussing large, networked hypertext systems...).

1992 The portable browser is released by CERN as freeware. Many HEP laboratories now join with servers: DESY (Hamburg), NIKHEF (Amsterdam), FNAL (Chicago). Interest in the Internet population picks up. The Gopher system from the University of Minnesota, also networked, simpler to install, but with no hypertext links, spreads rapidly. There is a need to make a Web browser for the X system, but have no in-house expertise. However, Viola (O'Reilly Assoc., California) and Midas (SLAC) are wysiwyg implementations that create great interest. The world has 50 Web servers!

1993 Viola and Midas are shown at the Software Development Group of NCSA (the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Illinois). Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina write Mosaic from NCSA. This is easy to install, robust, and allows in-line colour images. This causes an explosion in the USA. Cailliau regrets the loss of a number of features from the original prototype, which were not implemented in any of the browsers that followed from the Line Mode Browser and the X implementations such as Viola and Mosaic. The absence of wysiwyg editing of Web pages is particularly frustrating.

Cailliau begins to search for and find SGML technology: one day he forces a meeting with the president of a small but highly advanced company, Grif. During lunch he presents his vision of what the Web will do to the Internet and business publishing. It takes some time to make get the points across: Europe is not ready for this revolution! However, Grif now is a member of the consortium and has a suite of Web publishing products (Symposia). CERN produces Web server software with basic protection mechanisms. The Web server with pictures from the Dinosaur Exhibition in Honolulu is the showcase server for the Web. The European Commission approves the first WWW based project: "Wise", for dissemination of information to small and medium enterprises (DGXIII, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft (Darmstadt/Rostock) the CCG (Portugal) and CERN). Cailliau conceives and starts organizing the First International WWW Conference. There are 250 servers!

1994 Jim Clark, during a period of reflection, is advised to look into the Internet. He founds MCC (later Netscape). Netscape wisely hires the best young Web programmers of the world. The First International WWW Conference is held in Geneva, at CERN. It attracts over 600 Web enthusiasts, only 400 of which can be admitted ("Woodstock of the Web"). A conference in the US is a necessity, we found the IW3C2 (International WWW Conference Committee) to run the future conferences. The success of the Web means that CERN as a physics lab cannot continue to invest effort in an informatics project without help. We propose the WebCore project to the European Commission, to obtain funding for continued development of the core technology.

The Second WWW Conference is appropriately organized by NCSA, in Chicago. It attracts 1800 people, of which only 1300 can be admitted. Tim Berners-Lee and the Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) start the W3C Consortium in the US. It is modelled after the X consortium. Tim Berners-Lee leaves CERN for MIT (December). The CERN Council approves unanimously the construction of the LHC accelerator. This Large Hadron Collider will be built in the existing LEP tunnel, but with a tight budget. It is now impossible for CERN to continue deep involvement in the Web technological development. There are 2500 servers.

1995 In January, CERN and the European Commission invite INRIA, the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique, to continue the European involvement. INRIA has five sites in France and is heavily involved in European projects and collaborations with similar institutes in Europe and the world. Sun Microsystems produces HotJava, a browser which incorporates interactive objects. The Third Conference is organized by the FhG, Darmstadt. There is no way for individuals to become members of the Web Consortium. To give individuals a voice, a user-group type organization is needed. This leads to the founding of the Web Society in Graz (Austria). At one point they register 700 new servers per day! During the summer, several big European companies, mainly users, join the W3C. The European presence in the world-spanning Web Consortium is now large enough to organize a special day devoted to the Consortium activities in Europe. This meeting is attended by 1300 people and held in Paris (organized by INRIA). The Fourth Conference  December 1995, organized by MIT, Boston. The Fifth Conference  May 1996, in Paris. There are to date (1998) approximately 73,500 servers.

6. Links for E-Commerce and the World Wide Web

E-Commerce 101 - History of the WWW
Brief History of the Internet (Delphi Forum)
ISOC (Internet Society)  History of the Internet
History of the Internet and WWW (Internet Valley)
NetHistory (informal history of BITNET and the Internet)
Short article on history and future of the web
PBS Life on the Internet Timeline
Genuity's Internet Timeline - 50's - 90's
Hobbes Internet Timeline
Internet Valley's Resources for History of the Internet and WWW
Internet Background and Basics
Jargon Dictionary


Using the resources given in this module, you need to bring us up to date.  What has happened between 1995 when the Netscape browser came into use and the present? Visit the links given and find out what has been happening in e-commerce each year - 1995-2000. Now write an introductory paragraph and a concluding paragraph.  Put it all together and find a graphic to insert at the top to illustrate your report. You may find a graphic to illustrate each year. Submit this report to your instructor.

Teacher's Notes

Learning Outcomes:

learners will be able to:
1) review and discuss the history of the internet as it relates to e-commerce
2) understand the context, background and personalities involved regarding the creation of hypertext and the Web.
3. become familiar with the language used in the online environment and in e-commerce

Suggestions: To enrich or extend this learning activity, you may want to give the following as additional assignments.

Discussion Topics:
1. Have students talk about their own personal experiences with learning to use a computer and to access the internet and World Wide Web.
2. Talk about ways in which students are now using the web.
3. How many in class have used the web to compare prices or collect other data valuable in making decisions about purchasing?
4. How many have made a purchase on the web. Have them describe their feelings about this experience.  Did they have any concerns about entering credit card information?
5. How do they anticipate they will be using the web in the future?
6. In what ways do they think their own business dealings will be affected by e-commerce?

Learning the Language of E-Commerce
You might want to have students visit the Jargon Dictionary and write a story or create a dialogue to read out loud in class with other students using the language found there.

NOTE to the editor: If possible, put the News Items, History of Hypertext, The Creation of the Web, Pre-History of the Web, Bodies of the Web and Links as separate windows that come up (include instructions on each window for how to close that window when the reader is done).