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e-Commerce is an incredibly important and diverse part of the online world, with online retailers offering everything from sneakers to bicycles, puddings to zombie survival kits, lordships and even acres of land on the moon! But where did the online shopping idea begin and how was it shaped into what it is today?
In 1989 an English scientist at CERN called Tim Berners-Lee came up with a simple idea that would change the way the computer world worked, proposing to his boss a system that meant people could share information between computers with ease using a combination of new networking technology and existing computer technology.
His boss gave him the green light to create a system to connect and share documents in a way that they would be easy to read and search within and in 1991 the first website was built by Berners-Lee and his colleague Robert Cailiau.
Meanwhile, over on the East Coast of the USA, a forward thinking hippie and big fan of computers, Stewart Brand founded what he dubbed ‘Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link’ aka WELL with Larry Brilliant (member of the Greatful Dead) – an electronic version of his counterculture product catalog and magazine ‘Whole Earth Catalog’.
While not strictly an ecommerce site, Brand’s site showcased products and listed the vendor’s contact details with them, keeping the pricing and availability up to date, the first step to what would one day be an online store.
Over the next few years WELL grew into what was essentially the very first social network. With members being able to access and share information and interact with each other on a huge amount of subjects such as religion, art, music and politics in a forum format, WELL connected people from all over the country to each other.
In the early days on the internet, scientists and computer fans were the only real habitual users of the systems, and in fact the NSFNET ruled it commercial transactions were prohibited on the net. Banks were already using computer networks to transfer money however regular business transactions were not the norm.
But when Microsoft released its first version of Internet Explorer, suddenly anyone who could afford a computer and a copy of Windows could access the World Wide Web and the control was no longer in the hands of a select few, it was available to everyone and ideas and creativity ran thick and fast.
By 1995 some clever and creative people recognised that the internet, and selling online, was going to be a very big deal, and more entrepreneurs jumped on the money making train as they saw the rate of growth in the number of people using the internet was exploding.
One such person was Jeff Bezos, who took the plunge and moved from NYC to Seattle and to create a new company called Amazon, now the largest online retailer in the world. Another was Software developer Pierre Omidyar who came up with the idea of buying, selling and auctioning off unwanted stuff of all kinds, which led to the creation of eBay.
Around this same time retailers in the US started to get excited about these prospects, with Macy’s, one of the largest department stores in the US, starting to experiment with selling online in 1996 and many large and small retailers following suit.
In 2000 the ‘dot-com bubble’ burst and many companies that had popped up went under with it. Stocks in new internet based companies were being sold at rapidly increasing prices, confidence in companies’ future profits and easily available venture capital made investors gamble readily and excessively but the high costs and competition rendered this kind of spending unsustainable.
The companies who survived the crash proved to be the ones with the strongest ideas behind them, with eBay, Amazon and the humble beginnings of Google all persevering.
Google was already enjoying its popularity and quickly becoming most people’s search engine of choice and in 2003 it began to pay off, with Google deciding to advertise to its searchers in a different way, further monetizing the internet and pitching online shops and service provider competitors all over the world against each other.
As the World Wide Web expanded, more and more smaller retailers saw the value in ecommerce websites. Even small retailers like artists and makers were given avenues to sell unique handmade items on online market places like Etsy and Zazzle, customers were able to commission and customise products from all over the world, and smaller start-ups began to see the merit in avoiding the kind of overheads normally associated with beginning a brick and mortar shop.
eCommerce in recent years has become the norm and you can now buy almost anything you want from anywhere in the world, it has never been easier. Not only can we buy directly from retail sites, we can also forge new business to business relationships, sell hand made products, reserve hotels, flights and event tickets, crowdfund out next huge idea and buy food from local restaurants and have it delivered within an hour.
With so much movement and growth, retailers who aren’t selling online are very quickly being left behind while easier, more convenient online shopping retailers set the pace.
Now with another huge shift to mobile responsive sites, shopping online is easier than ever so if you’re considering opening up your own eCommerce website, there has never been a better time to do it! Competition between web design companies are getting fiercer these days. But this also implies that customers now have many options to pick the right ecommerce web design company which they can afford.