Yet, so far, the Internet is geared towards consumer eCommerce. The next stage, as we all know, is to build a successful business-to-business online market.
You know that business-to-business commerce (bricks-and-mortar and online) dwarfs consumer commerce. For most businesses, it is more important to succeed in business eCommerce than in the consumer arena.
What is required to build a successful business market online? Again, the most successful market is a transparent market. Experience has shown us that, technically, it translates in open standards. On the Internet, for business-to-business eCommerce, open standards mean XML.
Which leads me to what I call the XML economy. The XML economy is simply a business-to-business online market. To be successful, it must be transparent or, technically, built on XML. The XML economy is my vision of an Internet where any business, small/big, Windows/Macintosh/Linux/PalmOS/AS400 can participate at a reasonable cost.
We're not there yet. The closest things today are XML marketplaces such as Ariba or mySAP. However they are closed technically and expensive to join. In the next 2-4 years, they will be gradually replaced by the more open and cheaper solutions needed for the development of a transparent market the XML economy.
We witnessed the same transformation in the consumer arena. Until 1996-1997, if you had come to me and inquired about building an online shop, I would have fired my programmer's editor and written one for you. Few businesses could afford it.
In 1997, I would have sold you a product. I don't remember the exact figures but depending on the options, it cost between $3500 and $10000. That was still expensive.
Today most ISPs offer shopping carts for $50-$200 per month. HTML editors, such as NetObjects, let you edit and manage your shop from your desktop.
In the process we have seen many proprietary solutions, such as ActiveX, come and go. The winners have succeeded because they built on transparent solutions.