The Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) protocol has officially kicked off its existence with a wide array of endorsements and implementations spanning 28 countries worldwide.
"Major banks around the world are saying this is the standard for Internet commerce," says Steve Mott, senior vice-president for electronic commerce at MasterCard International.
Although a host of banks and credit-card companies are taking part in the SET trials, Wal-Mart Stores became the first retailer to join the SET pilot, a move that could give Internet commerce a more mainstream feel, Mott says.
MasterCard along with Visa International and several financial institutions have formed the driving force behind SET 1.0, and Mott says the next version will be even better. "Additional functions are planned for SET 2.0, including a wider range of encryption, debit-card support, and smart-card support."
In the first US transaction, an American Express card holder ordered a drill press from Wal-Mart's online store this week.
Analysts say the SET pilot programme has all but ensured that Internet commerce will continue to expand.
"On the Internet, standards rule," says Harry Fenik, vice-president at California-based Zona Research. "Standards provide ubiquity, and with ubiquity you see movement forward."
Fenik says Wal-Mart's decision to aggressively pursue a SET implementation for its online store makes a great deal of sense.
"That SET is international is a big, big deal," Fenik says. "Foreigners love to come to America and shop in US stores."
The SET 1.0 protocol will be used in 60 to 70 individual pilot programmes involving more than 150 banks.