WWW6: payment statements panel


the panel discussed various aspects of payment transaction over the Internet. there are two different issues:

  1. micropayment
  2. trading

1. micropayment

the term micropayment - or millicents - refers to payment for services that cost only a small fraction of a cent. access to a single page of a large document or a single query to a large database may be charged with 1/100 cent. examples might be digital encyclopedias, queries to a phone directory etc. currently, there are at least two initiatives under investigations. the main problem is, that the cost of a micropayment transaction must be extremely low, on the other hand, the volume must be very high to get a reasonable profit for the service provider.


2. trading

today, trading over the Internet usually involves a credit card. the card number is either entered into a form and transmitted over the Internet in a - hopefully - secure manner, or the customer provides the card number via fax, phone or any other reasonable and secure means. most major credit card companies are currently investigation some secure transaction mechanisms. one of the major problems is the restriction of the length of the encryption key. due to export restrictions of the U.S. government, the deployment of encryption keys of more than 40 bits is illegal. some major U.S. companies have formed the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and try to convince the U.S. government that they should remove export controls on this critical technology.

but not only the transactions need to be secure, there is also a need for reliable authentication of the party offering services or products and the person who places an order over the Internet. this is where the digital signature (DSig) initiative comes into play. digital signature allow to identify a person. smartcards together with a password phrase might be used to carry the signature and other important information.


i see not too much progress in this area. trading over the Internet is still difficult. payment is only one of the yet unresolved problems. how about CyberDollars ? i haven't heard a word about it. in addition, trading across international borders raises many legal issues.


to the WWW6 trip report main document


payment.html / 09-may-1997 (ra) / reto ambühler