10 E-Commerce Events That Shook the Last 10 Years

In the e-commerce world, each day sees a revolution announced. Although not all purported revolutionary ideas and events are indeed so, some steps taken over the last decade of online activity have changed the way we live and work.

The Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) on Wednesday offered its list of 10 developments in e-commerce that have created the most waves in the past decade, according to voting by industry experts and policymakers.

The advent of search engine giant Google tops the list. Nearly half of the online searches conducted by Internet users in February were run through Google, according to the SIIA. Another technology popularized by Google — the selling of keywords for advertising — falls fifth on the list.

Because Google pioneered two of the most important technologies of e-commerce — searching and targeted ads — “it shouldn’t be surprising that Google has had an outsized impact on the growth of e-commerce and merited two entries on the list,” Ken Wasch, president of SIIA, told the E-Commerce Times.

E-Commerce on the Move

Some events happened in a moment: For example, the launching of online auction service eBay in September 1997; its debut ranks third on the SIIA’s list. Others happened gradually and then reached critical mass, like the penetration of broadband Internet access for consumers, which grew to 50 percent in June 2004 and ranks second on the trade association’s top 10 list.

Two other mobile-Internet-related items appeared on the list: WiFi’s development in 1997 ranks seventh, and the introduction of Research In Motion’s BlackBerry devices in 1999 ranks at 10th. This is a trend that will only accelerate, Josh Martin, analyst with Yankee Group, told the E-Commerce Times.

“As we move to a more advertising-centric e-commerce model,” Martin said, “the ability to advertise in new a compelling ways will become more important.”

The “holy grail” that many people use as an example, said Martin, is that potential customers would be walking by a Starbucks, for example, and find an electronic coupon automatically transmitted to their cell phones to entice them to enter. More realistic, though, is that companies will purchase space through services such as mobile location searches.

Good Ol’ Days Gone?

Perusing the list of top 10 developments (below), one cannot help but notice that seven of them occurred in 2000 or before. That was the era before the dot-com bust, when rafts of ideas were receiving venture capital support and e-commerce companies were popping up left and right.

Now, those that back Internet-based ventures are much more conservative with their funding, and some believe that innovation has slowed considerably.

Are the days of true invention in e-commerce behind us? No, says Wasch. “We at SIIA are particularly excited about the development of open standards as it relates to the open document format (ODF). This is the first real effort to liberate documents from the applications that create them,” he stressed.

The production of interoperable documents, he noted, will allow a whole new round of innovation.

Mobility will be at the heart of the next wave of innovation, predicted Martin. “Personalization and accessing the individual instead of household or mass market” is his bet for the next push in e-commerce development.

The list was compiled as part of SIIA’s observance of the 10-year anniversary of the release of the federal “Framework for Global Electronic Commerce.” The 75 voters included federal officials, executives at Internet companies and related experts, such as lobbyists and former policymakers, said Wasch.

The List

SIIA’s “Top 10 Most Significant e-Commerce Developments of the Last 10 Years”:

  1. Google (Sept. 1998)
  2. Broadband Penetration of US Internet Users Reaches 50 percent (June 2004)
  3. eBay Auctions (Launched Sept. 1997)
  4. (IPO May 1997)
  5. Google Ad Words (2000)
  6. Open Standards (HTML 4.0 released – 1997)
  7. WiFi (802.11 launched – 1997)
  8. User-Generated Content (YouTube 2005)
  9. iTunes (2001)
  10. BlackBerry (1999)

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