First there was EDI
Up until recently, the only standard available for collaborative e-business was electronic data interchange or EDI. EDI technology, based on standards written mainly in the 1980s and updated annually, worked well (and continues to work well) for a good number of companies. Many of the productivity improvements generated during the later part of the 1990s that propelled the North American economy to unprecedented levels came about as a result of companies sharing more data, and using that data to make fundamental changes in the way they do business.
EDI is a powerful technology, and provides benefits for companies with high volumes of transactions supplied by many trading partners, which generally means larger enterprises. But for smaller companies (except for those acting as suppliers for big customers), EDI is just too complex and too expensive to make economic sense.