Has Technology Let E-Commerce Down?

E-commerce packed a lot of history into the year 2000 — not all of it good, by any means. Indeed, future generations may consider the long, steady decline of stock values and the concurrent shakeout as the story of the year.

As we head into 2001, several year 2000 issues remain unresolved. Most of all, e-commerce companies will continue to be watched for signs of real progress toward profits. At this point, no one expects the dot-coms that can’t make it into the black to provide us with anything but memories.

However, it’s also quite possible that e-commerce will further entrench itself into the social fabric and become even more of an economic force.

For that to happen, though, e-commerce is going to require help from the world of technology — help that has been slow in coming so far.

Who Needs Wires?

In other words, e-commerce has made its own missteps. But for every stumble, there have been times when promised advances in technology simply haven’t been there to provide a much-needed soft landing.

Where is wireless? It seems as if the entire year went by with a wireless use explosion said to be just around the corner. But the same technical drawbacks — the tiny screens on cell phones, the turtle speed downloads, the security issues — are still going to be in play in 2001.

No one doubts that mobile e-commerce can still be a major shot in the arm for e-commerce as a whole. One simply has to hope, for the sake of online business, that wireless will turn the corner sooner than later.

Common sense and a mountain of analyst reports seem to suggest that it will, but we’ll see.

Speed Helps

Meanwhile, the hard-wired crew is still largely waiting for the broadband revolution to have its day in the sun.

Streaming video companies and e-commerce firms looking to capitalize on their technologies are sitting at the starting gate, their engines overheating from idling so long. If they don’t move soon, their engines will explode.

Admittedly, wiring a country like the United States is a daunting and unnervingly expensive task. With investors unnerved, funding that task will likely become a lot harder. No one expects overnight results. But they’d sure be nice.

Silver Linings

Of course, technology let down e-commerce in other ways in 2000. eBay and Amazon suffered high-profile outages which have to be avoided in 2001 at all costs.

The good news is that it seems not only possible, but fairly probable, that future outages will be averted. E-commerce recognizes that it is worth almost any investment in order to avoid these pitfalls.

Furthermore, it’s worth noting — at the risk of bringing a curse onto the Web — that we have seen relative calm from a cybercrime standpoint, following a period during the first few months of this year that was marked by devastating security breaches, from viruses to denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.

Those attacks do more than cause short-term damage, of course, with the psychological scars still being counted months after the dust settled. Keeping those problems at bay in 2001 will help e-commerce breathe a lot easier.

I Wash Your Back

E-commerce has a symbiotic relationship with technology. E-commerce can’t exist without computer hardware, software and telecommunications, and all those industries have gotten a major boost from the e-commerce investment wave.

Ironically, technology came through where fears were highest, transforming the Y2K bug into a harmless horsefly and allowing e-commerce to pass into the New Year unscathed. Unfortunately, the rest of the year didn’t go quite so smoothly.

Luckily, everything gets a fresh start when the year 2001 begins. But if next year’s chapter of the history of e-commerce is going to be an upbeat one, the rest of the high-tech world will have to do its part.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.

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