INFS2052 Internet and Intranet Information Systems

Friday 7 May 1999, 09:00, MCC T2


Roger Clarke

Principal, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra

Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University

Revision of 5 May 1999

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 1997-99

This document is at


This unit is mostly about the technology underlying the Internet, not about what people use it for.

It would be interesting to analyse the social uses of the Internet. I've done a few things in this area that you may be interested in, which I cluster under the general heading of 'Cyberculture'. But any lecturer would be nervous about telling an audience like you about how people are using the Internet: I very much hope that you know as much about that topic as I do.

So this lecture's focus is on uses of the Internet driven by economic motives rather than social ones. It provides an outline of ways in which industry and government are exploiting the capabilities offered by the open technologies of the Internet.

The lecture focuses on:

  1. electronic business, which is a generic, catch-all term;
  2. electronic commerce, which is concerned with the selling and purchasing of goods and services using the net;
  3. consumer marketing. This refers to the promotion and sale of goods and services to people rather than corporations;
  4. electronic publishing. By this is meant electronic commerce in digital goods and services that are intended for consumption by the human senses;
  5. electronic services delivery. This is the performance of services over networks; and
  6. electronic payments. This is the transfer of monetary value via networks.

Electronic Business

Electronic business is a general term for using electronic tools to support business conducted by unincorporated businesses, companies and governments. It focuses in particular on electronic tools that depend on telecommunications.

The following sections address a number of kinds of electronic business. There are a few things that are definitely electronic business, but that are not treated here, including the handling of documents (such as those involved in student re-enrolment processes, and the myriad forms involved in running the judicial system).

Electronic Commerce

Electronic commerce is the purchasing of goods and services, with the assistance of telecommunications-based tools. These may be physical goods and services; or they may be digital goods and services that can be delivered over networks generally, or the Internet in particular.

Start with:

The following deal with a specific technology for transmitting the details of a structured transaction, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI):

Consumer Marketing

In electronic commerce, the seller and the buyer may be large organisations (corporations or government agencies), small businesses, or people. The purpose of the purchase may be to use the thing as a factor of production, i.e. to produce something else; or the purchaser may be an end-user or consumer.

The term 'consumer marketing' refers to the particular situation in which a corporation sells goods or services to ultimate users, who do not directly use the thing in producing what an economist would recognise as income. (Sorry if that sounds like a long-winded way to say something; but it actually matters ...).

Where consumers buy from large organisations, they are relatively powerless. During the last few decades, consumer protections that have been created to cater for that imbalance of power. Even the current rationalist-economic ideology has not been strong enough to roll back those protections (or, at least, not yet).

What governments have failed to do, the Internet might achieve. This is because if you buy from an unfamiliar, distant or unidentified organisation, conventional consumer protections may transpire to be valueless.

Here are some sources relating to particular aspects of consumer marketing:

Electronic Publishing

Electronic commerce may be conducted in relation to physical goods (like cans of baked beans) or digital goods (like software downloads). Publications such as books and articles, but also still images, music and even films/video can exist in physical form, or digital form.

The term 'electronic publishing' refers to electronic commerce in digital goods that are intended for consumption by the human senses. Driven especially by the web, but also FTP and MIME, it is having a dramatic effect on the publishing industry.

Here is some introductory reading:

A few additional items are available.

A recent one is Electronic Trading in Copyright Objects and Its Implications for Universities.

Electronic Services Delivery

Electronic commerce may be conducted in relation to the delivery of goods or the performance of services. Tickets for events can be booked over the net, and so could appointments with a doctor. Other examples are a search engine interacting with someone to produce a list of relevant URLs, and the Tax office providing information to enquirers. The term electronic services delivery (ESD) is used to refer to that sub-set of electronic commerce that deals in services, i.e. the provision of services with the assistance of telecommunications and telecommunications-based tools.

This is addressed in Electronic Services Delivery: From Brochure-Ware to Entry Points.

Electronic Payments

All commerce depends on the ability to exchange something of value for something else of value. Barter is limiting, and in the vast majority of trades, one side offers goods or services, and the other side offers money.

Here are some sources:

A few additional items are available.

Reference Materials

I maintain a substantial site of EC resources. Recent materials are listed on my What's New page. Here are some clusters of papers that may be relevant to your interests.

Chip-Cards (aka Smart Cards)

Cryptography Policy

Current Issues in Public Policy


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Created: 13 August 1997

Last Amended: 5 May 1999

These community service pages are a joint offering of the Australian National University (which provides the infrastructure), and Roger Clarke (who provides the content).
The Australian National University
Visiting Fellow, Faculty of
Engineering and Information Technology,
Information Sciences Building Room 211
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, ACN: 002 360 456
78 Sidaway St
Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, 6288 6916