Holiday sales have been commonplace for many years, but I think this year the online sales have hit an all-time high. Stores like Neiman Marcus and Restoration Hardware are sending out e-mail about their big holiday sales, and it seems like everybody in the world is offering free shipping to entice people to buy online.
I remember back in the day (1995), attending a USENIX symposium on e-commerce in New York City. I was a student scribe at the conference and was able to sit in on meetings about this amorphous ‘e-commerce’ concept, now ubiquitous it seems. Back then, we were mostly concerned about aspects like databases and security which are commonplace now (although certainly still not quite as good as they should be).
What I think is interesting is not where we are today – sales and free shipping galore – but the question of where we will be tomorrow, next year, and especially 11 more years from now. I saw demos at the World Summit on Information Society (in 2003) of handheld gizmos used between tribal communities, bearing symbols, to communicate remotely with each other about buying, selling and trading goods. That’s pure e-commerce.
As we read more about globalization every day and see communities like Lagos Island where raw economics rule every aspect of life, I wonder when globalization and e-commerce will merge into one. It seems like e-commerce is coming of age now, but with all of the possibilities still out there, particularly for marketplaces like eBay and Amazon.com there is still a long way it can go.