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Web Development Articles
(February 2002)

Whatever Happened to E-Commerce Robots? (E-Commerce Times, February 28th)
Standing alongside push technology, micropayments, VRML and other much-ballyhooed technologies of the Web's early days was the concept of the intelligent agent - a computerized bot that tracked down information, products and the like as a background process, before delivering such data to its human operator when requested. Increasingly practical - and commercial - alternatives of such agents were the comparison shopping bots, that crawled through the databases of 100s of online merchants in an attempt to locate the best deals. While these have been embraced by a small proportion of the online population, this E-Commerce Times report suggests that their future remains uncertain unless the services can branch out to offer more than simple price-based comparisons.

The Power of Endorsements on the Web (ClickZ, February 28th)
Nick Usborne finds through personal experience that there's nothing like the word of a trusted expert when it comes to selling things online. He then questions why it is that big pure-play online properties haven't made an effort to develop and foster celebrity voices of their own.

Online Investment Sites 'Most Addictive' on Web, Study Finds (Newsbytes, February 27th)
Internet measurement company Nielsen//NetRatings, upon performing a study of web usage based on site categories, has found finance and investment-related destinations to be the 'stickiest' group of sites online. The sticky measurement takes account of not only how often particular sites are visited, but the length of a user's presence on a site, and in these times of widespread financial uncertainty, it is thought that net users are increasingly paying attention to the wise management of their money online.

Enron's Brilliant E-Commerce Vision (E-Commerce Times, February 27th)
Enron and 'brilliant' are not two terms traditionally associated, but collapse aside (I know, that's a big ask) Enron truly did have one technology up its sleeve that showed the kind of potential that was once worked into the company's share price. EnronOnline represented a true revolution in e-commerce B2B and commercial commodity trading, and the system is set to live on following its fire-sale acquisition by a banking giant.

Satisfaction: Guaranteed? (eCRMguide, February 27th)
Excellence in customer service is essential to the long-term sustainence of brand and business, but as this article notes, customer relationship management is not the only key to developing and maintaining loyalty and the all-important profits.

The Toughest Site You Will Ever Build (WDVL, February 25th)
Where to start? What to include? What to do? Lee Creek offers developers some advice for when the site they're building is their own.

Ten Best Practices of Online Retailing (E-Commerce Guide, February 25th)
Are you well positioned against your competition? Philip Bannister examines the 10 best practices that have the most meaningful impact on the bottom line and improve customer satisfaction and brand image.

Online Shopping and the Human Touch (E-Commerce Times, February 25th)
Building upon some of the suggestions outlined in the article above, this feature looks at many of the most popular facilities of online customer service; suggesting that by granting customers with the ability to interact with a service representative in real-time is a great way to encourage upselling, and to avoid shopping cart abandonment.

Lycos Launches Paid Search and Inclusion Services (ITworld, February 25th)
Search technology and portal player Terra Lycos has unveiled a duo of new commercial offerings this week. The first is a hosted search service that allows web publishers to employ Lycos' technology to power searches of material found on their own site. The second marks the engine's late foray into the paid-inclusion market. As with other search services, such as Yahoo!, Looksmart and Inktomi, Lycos now offers publishers the chance to have their listing reviewed in less time if they're willing to pony up a little cash for the honor.

TRUSTe Targets Wireless (internet.com, February 22nd)
TRUSTe, whose presence in cyberspace is highlighted by their privacy seal program aimed at safeguarding consumers against illicit uses of personal data or insecure transactions, is making moves to expend its program into the coverage of wireless properties.

Consumers' Concern with Company Security (eMarketer, February 22nd)
Privacy has been a growing topic of concern among the US public since 11 September. Harris found that 91% of US consumers say they would be more likely to do business with a company that verified its privacy practices with a third party.

Big Trouble for Little Online Stores (E-Commerce Times, February 22nd)
As brick-and-mortar giants increase their stake in the minds of online shoppers, the challenge facing small e-commerce operators is staying ahead of the pack and attracting niche traffic through affordable venues. This article explains a few options available to smaller merchants that can grant their cyber-storefronts exposure, while beefing up their brand and/or partnership channels.

Queue Again for .biz Domains (BBC News, February 22nd)
It's hard to imagine that ICANN is satisfied with the extended review process that it put into place in selecting the groups that would be responsible for managing the roll-out and maintenance of the seven new generic top-level domains. Shortly after .info endured its own lengthy bout of teething problems, the administrators of the .biz space were found to have been operating an illegal lottery in distributing the domains. Involved parties were refunded their deposits and have now been invited to re-apply for the disputed domains.

Webcasters Learn Cost of Music (Wired News, February 21st)
Following months of negotiations, the Digital Media Association and the Recording Industry Association of America have finally found common ground pertaining to the licensing rates that will govern online music broadcasting. These rates apply retroactively, and are sure to hit home hard for many webcasters, several of which are already on the ropes following the online ad turndown. More on this may also be found at USA Today.

The Kings of Repeat E-Business (E-Commerce Times, February 21st)
Acquiring customers is not enough to determine one's success in most cases (exceptions can occur where the items sold are big-ticket items with little chance of resale). As such, elements such as website usability, flawless order fulfilment and the ready availability of customer service are essentials in ensuring that an acquired customer becomes a long-term buyer who turns to your company, rather than your competition, to make future purchases.

Conversations with Customers (E-Commerce Guide, February 21st)
While most e-businesses have finally realized how important it is to cultivate relationships with customers, few have actually engaged in reciprocal dialog with shoppers.

US E-Commerce Sales Reach All-Time High (ElectricNews.net, February 20th)
Figures from the US Census Bureau show a whopping 34 percent jump in e-commerce sales in the US in the last three months of 2001 compared to the previous quarter. Nevertheless, extended opportunities for growth most certainly remain when considering that e-tail sales still account for only 1% of all retail exchanges in the US. As an addition to this announcement, eMarketer has compares the estimates put forth by several research firms and compared these to the actual figures presented by the DoC to gauge whether or not expectations were met, by-and-large. More on that here.

Bandwidth and Internet-Delivered Services (eMarketer, February 20th)
Sage Research reports that 44% of US households would be willing to pay for internet-delivered entertainment services and 42% would be willing to pay for communication services. The study also delved into the earnings potential of each sector, with online education predicted to be a strong leader, with services such as movies/TV on demand, the provision of long distance phone services and home health monitoring also expected to be big winners in the net services space.

NetRatings, Jupiter Call Off Merger (internet.com, February 19th)
Web and Internet measurement firms NetRatings, Inc. and Jupiter Media Metrix have called off their $71.2 million merger agreement after FTC officials raised competitive objections about the deal and its associated loan and security agreement. Jupiter Media Metrix shares plummeted on the news, sending the stock back into the sub-$1 territory. Analysts mull over the Jupiter's options in this Internet.com article.

And the E-Commerce Gold Medal Goes To... (E-Commerce Times, February 19th)
In true Olympic form, the E-Commerce Times has used this article to celebrate two of the crowning success stories in large-scale e-commerce, with eBay being awarded the gold medal and now-profitable e-commerce mainstay Amazon.com winning the silver. The article presents reasons accounting for the success experienced by these leading players in an event best known for its spectacular crashes than smooth landings.

AltaVista Shuttering Free E-Mail (internet.com, February 19th)
The company best known for its strong search technology, but which followed Yahoo! and its ilk into the lure of offering a variety of free services in the attempt to serve as an internet 'portal', has given up on its lossy free email service in an attempt to slim down its operations. Its 400,000 account holders have been informed that they should establish an alternative before the cut-off date of March 31st.

Processing and Using Photos for the Internet (WDVL, February 18th)
New to web development and photo editing? Never fear, for Lee Creek is here to provide a series of tips for beginners as to how best to optimize images for use online.

Battle Brewing Over European E-Tail Tax Plan (internet.com, February 15th)
Though far from being passed as law, a new proposal issued to the European Union has already caused bitter divisions online. In short, the proposal allows for European companies to charge a flat tax rate for all purchases made by European customers, while non-EU companies would have to determine each buyer's location first and added VAT tax to purchases of digital goods and services made by European consumers and businesses.

Generate a Stream of Qualified Leads Daily (InternetDay, February 15th)
Businesses selling high-end products or services (valued at $500 or more) solely online find it incredibly hard to sell their products without some form on contact beforehand. Doing so is possible, though, and this article includes a few suggestions as to how such high-end products may be promoted and accentuated through up-selling efforts incorporated into complementary products that are sold for smaller amounts.

Look Who's Making Money Online in 2002 (E-Commerce Times, February 14th)
This report presents an outlook on some of the most promising sectors of e-commerce for this coming year.

SEC to Firms: Use Your Websites (Wired News, February 14th)
In what is believed to be an unprecedented action, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is telling publicly-traded companies what information to put on their corporate websites in an effort to keep investors better informed.

The Best Little Bakery in Texas Embraces E-Commerce (E-Commerce Guide, February 14th)
Old world charm meets new commerce as a web site presents a 106-year-old cake specialist with a tasty boost in sales.

Can Dotcom Resurrection Pay E-Commerce Dividends? (E-Commerce Times, February 13th)
With so many brands, products and facilities on the auction block following the dotcom flameout, there seems many a bargain to be had, but only time will tell whether or not these fire-sale purchases really hold as much appeal as their face cost suggests.

Paid Listings Search Engines Top Estimates (internet.com, February 13th)
Pay-per-click search engine rivals Overture and FindWhat continue the sector's good news - throwing the rest of the Web ad industry's troubles into sharp relief as they trump Wall Street earnings estimates.

The 'Sunrise' for .us Begins Soon (internet.com, February 13th)
NeuStar, the controversial new registry for the .us country code top-level domain (ccTLD) will soon open the doors for trademark holders interested in snapping up some patriotic cyber real estate, officials said recently.

BigStar Shuts Down Online Moviestore (internet.com, February 13th)
The demise of the former high-flying Silicon Alley dot-com comes just a few months after a complete overhaul of its business model.

Internet Mosaic Continues to Grow (BBC News, February 12th)
While some theorists had suggested that the adoption of a global communications medium that facilitates mass, group and interpersonal communication would result in the development of a homogenous 'global village', present research from IDC suggests otherwise. As the net population continues to grow and diversify, variations in culture, geography and language are beginning to intensify. To this, web publishers must react with sensitivity in understanding the needs and behaviours of different groups in order to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

Web Media's Positively Surprising News (BusinessWeek Online, February 12th)
This article highlights a few of the glimmers of hope presently emerging for web advertising in general, while additionally highlighting those publicly-traded dotcoms that have bucked the trends plaguing much of the industry in boosting their earnings, improving their margins and growing their businesses amidst recessionary conditions.

Net Thieves Find New Way to Nab Cash (MSNBC, February 12th)
This report outlines a concerning rise in illegal credit card refund schemes that are taking advantage of weaknesses in the popular Authorize.Net transaction system.

Listen Up for Content (ClickZ, February 12th)
What's next for your site? Your users are probably telling you, but are you listening?

Overture Enhances Contract with MSN (internet.com, February 12th)
MSN and Overture go back a long ways, when the popular pay-for-performance search engine was still called GoTo. Competing in a "Google"-ized environment, Overture is happy to see one of its major clients sticking with its service.

Interland Acquires CommuniTech.Net (internet.com, February 11th)
Adding some 20,000 small business customers to its growing hosting business through the acquisition of profitable CommuniTech.Net, Interland is proving that the rapid consolidation of the web hosting industry is far from over. What's interesting about this purchase is that the target, while apparently in the black, has a very poor reputation, with a history tarnished by claims of spam marketing, inappropriate account closure, and several additional horror stories that place it in the league of CI Host, Addr and the ilk as one of the most widely-criticized small business hosts. (Perform a search on WebHostingTalk.com for more).

Google in a Box (internet.com, February 11th)
One of the drawbacks plaguing Google's old licensing service was that search queries had to pass through Google's servers remotely, creating lag, redundancy and possible security concerns for organizations using their technology as opposed to competitors Verity or Inktomi. With the release of 'Google in a Box', though, the search firm is overcoming this problem by allowing the operators of intranets and large web properties to employ Google's search technology from their own data center. Google will be releasing two data-crunching servers - each of which reportedly needs very little configuration - and will privide 2 years of updates and maintenance with each contract.

Search Engine Spiders Like to Read (InternetDay, February 8th)
While a good domain name and targeted META tags can help improve search engine rankings, they alone will not help a website if it does not contain relevant text on the page being optimized.

The State of U.S. Online Shopping (E-Commerce Times, February 8th)
A U.S. Department of Commerce survey has found that more than half the U.S. population is now connected to the Internet. In addition, 39 percent of Internet users are making purchases online. The report additionally found that the rate of growth in net adoption within poorer American households is presently outstripping growth rates amongst wealthier populations, which is further evidence of the narrowing 'digital divide'.

Can P2P E-Payments Go From Small-Scale to Widespread Adoption? (eMarketer, February 8th)
Gartner finds that 80% of US consumers are aware of P2P e-payment services, but only 27% use PayPal and 11% use Billpoint. Nevertheless, estimates have it that person-to-person transactions will increase in volume at a stunning rate in coming years, suggesting that many small businesses may be able to skirt around the need for a 'real' merchant account, or complement this with an additional transaction tool in their collection of payments online.

Blogging in the Web's Footsteps (eMarketer, February 8th)
The art of weblogging is unlike any other. The public diary, the vanity column, the content management system; web logging - or 'blogging' - has existed on the web since its roots, but the phenomenon is continuing to grow in popularity while the creation of personal websites in raw HTML slowly declines in popularity. This eMarketer interview looks at the rise of the blog, while also suggesting how the community-centric self-publishing form may evolve from here.

E-Commerce: What Works & What Doesn't (E-Commerce Guide, February 8th)
Although less than insightful, this article provides a few details about those e-commerce formulae that have proven successful (and in some cases replicable) thus far, and which have been less so. The article also cautions against launching experimental or unproven ventures until the economy begins its inevitable rebound.

Disney Scores Content Deal with BellSouth (internet.com, February 7th)
Building on the earlier successes enjoyed by Salon.com and MarketWatch in minimizing the effects of the ad slowdown by branching into content syndication, the desperately lossy Walt Disney Internet Group has been contracted to provide content to BellSouth's many dialup and broadband users in a deal that stands as a turning point for the group's online strategy.

Navigation Systems Defined by Customer Experience (SearchDay, February 7th)
Learn how mirroring the customers' experience in the offline world can improve navigational systems on web sites.

Google Begins Ad Distribution at Earthlink (internet.com, February 6th)
Finding common ground to unite its two established channels of income - that of keyword-based ad sales and the syndication of its search results, Google has entered into an agreement with ISP EarthLink to provide the service with only paid results, and will presumably deliver the company a percentage of the revenues generated through the exposure of such results. In striking this deal, Google also ousted Overture from EarthLink's reach, suggesting that the PPC pioneer could have another direct competitor on its hands. Meanwhile, Overture has responded with an upbeat report, suggesting that the loss of EarthLink will have little effect on the company's bottom-line, which is expected to reveal a second straight quarter of profitability and a significantly increased earnings forecast for the present calendar year. More info in this Internet.com article.

KISS: Keep it Simple ...Why? (WebReference, February 6th)
As designers, you must understand the latest cutting-edge Web technologies - but you don't necessarily have to rush out and use them.

Are There Any E-Commerce Niches Left? (E-Commerce Times, February 4th)
With the bulk of the carnage and consolidation to hit the e-commerce space now in our history, hindsight has indicated which endeavours fit the uniqueness of the net well, and which failed to click with users in a profitable and sustainable manner. Where the winners and losers have largely been identified, many analysts still see opportunities untapped as yet, particularly those pertaining to location-based selling, niche markets that with built-in audiences that don't sell well enough to cover storefront rent, channel management, wholesaling to the public, etc.

Digital Brand Management (ClickZ, February 4th)
ClickZ contributor Philip Say dishes out a few tips as to how best to leverage one's online properties as effective vehicles of brand-building and awareness reinforcement.

The Art of Selecting Good Keywords (InternetDay, February 1st)
If you are a web site owner, you have no doubt already learned that it is important to have a good keyword selection when creating your META tags. Although reduced in their influence of late, keywords remain important in determining which users a search engine sends to your Web site, so care should be taken with their selection.

Weight Loss Company Sues Search Engines (internet.com, February 1st)
Mark Nutritionals, which manufactures a line of diet products called Body Solutions, has filed suit against several leading pay-for-placement search engines with the complaint that the engines in question have knowingly violated their tradmark by allowing competitors to bid on the term 'body solutions' at rate so as to be listed above the firm. Amusingly, the company is seeking a massive $10 million in compensation from each engine, in addition to up to $100 million in punitive damages from each defendent, despite the fact that te group made no attempt to contact the engines in advance of filing suit. Discuss the issue here.

A Taxing Chat with Arthur Rosen (eMarketer, February 1st)
The moratorium on internet taxes won't last forever. The implications of proposed legislation will affect not only e-commerce but direct marketers and potentially most business sectors throughout the US. Legal expert Arthur Rosen briefs eMarketer editor David Berkowitz in this exclusive interview.

Register.com In $16.9M Virtual Internet Takeover (internet.com, February 1st)
In an effort to bridge its market share gap against larger competitor Verisign, domain registrar and hosting firm Register.com has made a biid to acquire UK-based Virtual Internet in an all-stock transaction. The offer has been accepted by the directors, and needs only shareholder approval to proceed. After sealing the deal, Register.com will become the sole controller of the new limited TLD, '.pro'.

Internet Firm Hacked Out Of Business (Reuters, February 1st)
Fears are growing once more that companies operating on the Internet may not be equipped to ward off electronic sabotage after anonymous 'crackers' forced a small British firm out of business.

E*Trade Switches to Linux (Reuters, February 1st)
Shortly after Amazon.com announced that it had achieved dramatic cost reductions after switching to a Linux-based hosting system from Microsoft's alternative, the popular online trading service has followed suit.


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