Component-based Web commerce nears, says CommerceNet chief

Internet entrepreneurs of the future will be able to assemble new and innovative businesses from components found on the World Wide Web, according to the head of an industry consortium that promotes electronic commerce.

Internet entrepreneurs of the future will be able to assemble new and innovative businesses from components found on the World Wide Web, according to the head of an industry consortium that promotes electronic commerce.

Dubbed "component-based commerce", this business model will enable Web-based entrepreneurs to package other businesses, or components, into their own baskets of goods and services tailored to the needs of individual customers, according to Jay Tenenbaum, chairman of CommerceNet, a consortium of about 500 companies and organisations involved in electronic commerce.

Speaking at the consortium’s Asia summit in Tokyo yesterday, Tenenbaum said that an early foundation of Internet commerce has arrived as companies such as discount retailer Wal-Mart Stores build online businesses. But the next step, component-based commerce, will allow entrepreneurs to integrate a mix of different vendors into entirely new businesses, creating "opportunities for new, innovative kinds of businesses that build on the value of these pioneering stores", he says.

Tenenbaum likens the model to object-oriented software development, in which separate software components can be reused to create different applications.

Citing an airline sales Web site as an example, Tenenbaum says that a business can be created that provides inexpensive airfares by using resources available on the Web. The service would integrate any number of separate businesses from a registry of airlines, airlines' Web sites, and online banks to process transactions and potentially offer a service to deliver tickets.

While today there are Web-based services, such as search engines, that perform similar tasks, Tenenbaum says that they lack the scalability that the fast-growing Web requires. For opportunities for component-based businesses to take hold, the Web will need some changes, he says. These would include a focus by Web businesses on interoperability with systems and platforms used by a wide variety of potential customers and other businesses.

In addition, in order for different sites to be integrated, Web resources will need to become object-oriented and employ technologies such as XML (Extensible Markup Language), which enable data to be tagged and easily found.

Based in Palo Alto, California, CommerceNet is on the Web http://www.commerce.net/.

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