Sunday, April 02, 2006

InfoCard – the ecommerce holy grail?

If asked what todays most significant barrier to online retail is (as a user and developer of ecommerce applications) I would say security.

Users, myself included, do not feel comfortable handing significant quantities of personal information out everytime we buy something.

There have been many attempts to solve this issue, but none have produced a system that has gained wide acceptance by users or vendors.

Paypal has shown that online, easy-to-use, secure, private payment systems can be a success - they now have 72 million worldwide accounts, compared with AmEx's 65 million (source: Businessweek.com). However many retailers are not comfortable offering Paypal as a payment method yet (we've started taking it in the US, but not outside).

Microsoft is planning to include InfoCard as part of WinFX due out later this year (orginally as part of Vista but it looks likely it will also be released as a download for XP earlier).

InfoCard, an Identity Metasystem, will enable a consistent interface to validate your indentity to login into retail sites and also hold digital versions of your credit card to submit to vendors (they don't appear to be doing much more than hint about this in public yet).

If InfoCard can provide a consolidated login system for all your favorite sites and allow payment without explicitly providing personal information it will be the largest step change for ecommerce since the search engine a decade ago.

It will also be an absolute necessity for ecommerce on IPTV - as anyone who has tried to buy something from Sky Active will agree.

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