where "word of keystroke" begins

December 4, 1997 -- Bazaars: low-cost store fronts

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, December 4, 1997. These sessions are normally scheduled for 12 noon-1 PM Eastern Time (GMT -5) every Thursday.

These sessions are hosted by Richard Seltzer. If you would like to receive email reminders of our chat sessions, simply send a blank email message to or go to and sign up there.

For transcripts of previous sessions and a list of future topics, click here .

For an article on how to make "business chat" work (based on this experience), click here .

Since the chat itself happens at a rapid pace, it's often difficult to note interesting facts in particular URLs as they appear on-line. Here's a place to take a more leisurely look. I've rearranged some of the pieces to try to capture the various threads of discussion (which sometimes get lost in the rush of live chat).

Please send email with your follow-on questions and comments, and suggestions for topics we should focus on in future sessions. So long as the volume of email responses is manageable, I'll post the most pertinent ones here for all to see.

Threads (reconstructed after the fact):

Today's Participants


Richard Seltzer -- All -- we're here to talk about business on the Web, and in particular about low-cost store fronts on the Web. As you connect, please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests. That will help us get started quickly.

Eugene -- Good Afternoon, I am Eugene Cartright, Unix Systems Administrator
ACUNET Internet Commerce Services

Ashu -- Hi Richard, This is Ashu...we are getting online, glad to be here.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- I'm particularly interested in ways to allow very small businesses and individuals to sell on the Web -- very low-cost, hosted solutions. When every little shop, and even flea markets and yard sales and swapping of collectibles is on the Web that will indeed be a very interesting space. I'm not just interested in buyin the same merchandise from the same vendors I find in physical malls. I'm hoping that the Internet can make available a much broader range of choice and prices.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Ashu and Eugene, as you know, I'm very interested in your Cyberbazaars product, and particularly the upcoming service to allow small businesses to set up stores quickly and cheaply.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome Otis and Kathleen and Chris. Chris, can you please introduce yourself?

Kathleen Gilroy -- Hi Richard

Otis -- Hello all, I'm Otis, a software engineer from Acunet. Acunet focuses on Internet Commerce and you can see its first product called CyberBazaars at

Chris -- Hello, I'm back after a long absence.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Tony, Ed, and Bob. Please introduce yourselves. We're talking about low-cost store fronts on the Web. Do you have experience with these as a buyer or a seller?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Hello all - Bob in Dallas just joining.

tony -- My name is Anthony Alvarez, i am one of the webmasters here at Acunet. I will be at Internet Expo in NYC 12/12. Please stop by the Digital Booth are where we will be located. Thank you.

ilene hoffman -- Hullo folks

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Ilene, please introduce yourself. What are your interests with regard to on-line store fronts?

ilene hoffman -- I'm mac/internet consultant/writer and am here just to watch today :-)

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Glenn, please introduce yourself and let us know your interests.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- FYI, next Thursday I'll be in New York for Internet World, for Digital; and hence I won't be able to hold the chat session. That's why our next one will be December 18. While at Internet World I be doing two live Webcasts on how to get the most out of AltaVista. First Wed. Dec. 10 from 11 to noon on how to find; then Thursday, Dec. 11 on how to be found. I believe that you'll need RealVideo and can't be behind a firewall to tune in. Check for details. 

Setting up a store

Chris -- We are currently working a project to allow a store to sell on the web.

Richard Seltzer -- Chris -- What kind of store? What are your unique business requirements? And what are you considering as a solution?

Chris -- It's still in the early stages of development. We have an agreement in principle so I don';t want to get too much into what the market segment is. The solution is to provide a service that incrementally evolves as the volume requirements ramp up. This reduces upfront costs as well as the percieved risk to the store owner. What I would like to see happen is for a community to develop around the product offerings and the ability to offer a full-up sohpisticated presence for my customer.

Kathleen Gilroy -- Chris--what do the basic services look like?

Richard Seltzer -- Chris -- interesting -- you want to develop a community around the product offerings. Will you perhaps start to develop the community first? (seems natural) And if so, how do you plan to support and nurture said community? What will draw people to the site and give them incentive to return?

Richard Seltzer -- Chris -- Also, when I think of "community" and "store", I naturally think of "auction", an environment in which a group of like-minded people bid on and talk about the merchandise they want. Is that part of what you have in mind?

Chris -- As a first release we'll provide a catalog that has items that have high potential for sales over the web. It will be rudimentary but sufficient for a pilot project.

Chris -- It's a little more subtle than that. As people are made aware of the availability of products, we'll start to offer "community style" features. Its a little ways off but I like the notion of providing a forum where people will frequent. It's more exciting than just a catalog or shopping cart. That might be more appropriate in business-to-business but not in business-to-consumer.

Kathleen Gilroy -- Display, Inventory Control, Ordering, Payment Processing, Confirmation, Shipping. All of the components of a book transaction on

Chris -- Kathleen, Yes exactly. As well as interesting representations of the products themselves. Our main immediate concern is that for a while we will undercut the competition and people will be compelled by the prices we have to offer.

Otis -- Chris: so you are starting a service (internet mall-like service)?

Chris -- Otis, A mall is more of a combination of many stores. We are looking at a store at this point. Very focused.

Otis -- Chris: aha, okay. Your own store? Or will you be bringing others to set up their own individual stores?

Chris -- Otis, Not my own store. I'll be helping to set someone elses's store up.

Otis -- Chris: I see, but I'm not sure I understand how you will be able to attract potential customers by offering lower pricing.... ? 

Low-cost store fronts

Richard Seltzer -- Ashu and Eugene, in followup notes, Tracy Marks pointed us to viaweb ( Did you have a chance to look at their site? If so, how would you position what you are trying to do with respect to what they offer?

Otis -- Richard: one of the first things to notice is that Viaweb is a evry expensive solution - $100 or $300 or _more_ per month versus $39 one time fee that we require.

Eugene -- I think that new generation solutions like CyberBazaars address two major problems facing wide spread deployment of Ecommerce - 1. Cost, and 2. Technological complexity A product, like CyberBazaars with a price tag of $39 software and some small transaction fee (like Credit card processors) is quite affordable for most merchants. And the complexity is hidden from the merchant by adapting next generation technology of Java and Corba

Otis -- And for those of you interested in E-Commerce please visit us at the Internet World - Acunet will be in DEC's booth as well where we will be demoing CyberBazaars.

Richard Seltzer -- Eugene -- When will I be able to sign up and try out Cyberbazaars? Will there be a pilot period during which prospective users of your service will be able to set up storefronts and get comfortable with the environment before the doors open for consumers?

Otis -- Richard: I believe we plan on opening our doors (our service using our product first to allow stores to start selling onthe Internet) in January/February.

Ashu -- Richard - The pilot period is begininning starting after Internet World, and you willl be able to try out CyberBazars around Januray 2nd week. - Ashu

Kathleen Gilroy -- Ashu - Whom do you see as your target customer? What size store in terms of annual sales? How do you plan to recruit customers to your service?

Otis -- Kathleen: as far as our product goes, the only low-end thing about it is the price. Everything else is suitable for very big merchant with high expectations and requirements, as well as small merchants (1-2+ people stores) who will most probably love what the product offers

Ashu -- Kathleen -- We see two types of customers for CyberBazaars. First are the ISPs and Ecommerce Services providers who will buy the server software (priced under $1k) and offer a shopping mall type service to merchants. The second type of customers are businesses (both large and small) who are interested in setting up storefronts on their own web sites. They will either buy a complete solution (server and clients) or juts the client and set up th e CyberBazaars enabled store with an ISP service, but not necessarily participate in their malls.

Richard Seltzer -- Ashu et al. from Acunet, please send us email as soon as your hosted service is open, so I can add that to the transcripts. I'm sure there are people here who would like to try it out. (The price is so low that some might design it into courses about doing business on the Internet -- having setting up a store and then promoting it as class exercises).

Ashu -- Richard - we will keep you and this community informed about our plans. And as a note - one class at Boston University has already picked up CyberBazaars as a class project as a foundation to build a Real customer Car Reservation web site next month.


Richard Seltzer -- Ashu and others at Acunet, I understand that Cyberbazaars has an auction component. How does that work? Is it for live/real-time bidding? Or does the bidding take place asynchronously over time (like auctions held in baseball card stores, where the highest bid posted by a pre-set date gets the item).

Otis -- Richard - yes, CyberBazaars allows any merchant to put any product in his/her catalogue up for Auction, or even haggling. All it takes is a click of a button (2 actually :))

Richard Seltzer -- Otis -- how does the auction/haggling work? is it real-time like chat?

Ashu -- Richard - The Auction component of CyberBazaars is modeled similar to concept. The Haggling component is live/real-time bidding and generally involves 1-to1 (merchant/customer) interaction via agents.
CyberBazaars supports both components.

Otis -- Richard - both auctioning and haggling is real time, just like auctions on And actually it is better because you can use agents (software agents) to do the work for you, so you do not have to be there all the time hitting the refresh button and waiting for somebody to out-bid you, etc. 

Alternatives to the vendor having a merchant credit card account?

Richard Seltzer -- All -- one of the barriers to very small operations, new operations, and flea-market/yard-sale type selling is the need to have a merchant credit card account. Have any of you seen ways to sell on-line when you do not have such an account? Perhaps store hosts that act as an intermediary? (Is that possible? legal? desirable?) What are the alternatives for collecting money on-line?

Otis -- Richard - I may be missing something, but I don't think there is a way for a merchant to start selling something over the web without that merchant account...

Richard Seltzer -- Otis -- in the real-world, there are auctioneers who sell other people's merchandise. Is there a potential business for auctioneers on the Web? I could imagine them using your service to reach customers and acting as the middleman between the one-time seller of goods (collectibles, flea market stuff, yard sale stuff, one-of-a-kind merchandise) and the buyer. In that case perhaps the auctioneer has a merchant credit card account. Does this make sense from your perspective? I'm thinking of all the multitude of classified ads, where individuals have used articles for sale, and where auctions, if well-attended, might be a good way to move them quickly.

Otis -- Richard - oh,what you described is perfectly fine with us and our product. The auctioneer would just have to 'act' as a merchant and put items up for Auctioning. When a customer wins an auction he then deals with the auctioneer as if the auctioneer is a merchant.

Richard Seltzer -- Otis -- The auction notion sounds interesting and fun. And perhaps, as I mentioned, an auctioneer could act as the credit card go between. (Other ways to sell on-line would involve asking people to mail a check to pay for particular goods or to establish a deposit account).

Otis -- Richard - yes, a merchant could accept checks and not credit cards, and for that he/she would not need a merch. account. I'm not sure how many merchants would want that though (checks can bounce, you have to deposit them, etc.)

Ashu -- Richard -- In terms of setting merchant accounts, our approach is to learn and support real world examples. That is - support all different models (one at a time, of course!). 1. An ISP or Service provider acting as an intermediary is possible and legal, but risky for from liability standpoint for small players. 2. Setting up independent merchant accounts is less risky but less rewarding to the service provider, but works practically everywhere.

Ashu -- Richard - in terms of payment systems support - I think that the credit card companies are well poised to move up to the next step, and make the online payment as easy as it is in the real world. Particularly with MasterCard and VISA now supporting SET and Wallet/ID Authentication support, I am confident that the business issues will resolve in about next 12 months.

Otis -- Richard - actually, I know a number of people who were willing to place an order using their credit card via a non-secure Internet connection. Some people are VERY afraid, but in my opinion that fear is mostly due to all the hype and talk about (in)security of online shopping. Giving someone your credit card number over the phone is not any more secure than doing it over the web is. The only thing is that everyone is used to doing this over the phone and the Web is something relatively new, and we all know how humans act to new things.

Ashu -- Richard - while I do not want to under emphasize the need for security for online transactions, but many a time people forget how secure their credit cards are when they dine in small, unknown restaurants in questionable neighborhoods. I think that there is need for security but over time people will become more comfortable for online shopping anyway.

Richard Seltzer -- Otis -- I agree that the security issue is largely an illusion. But that illusion does strongly affect behavior and the bottom line. Credit card orders by email for me totally dried up about a year ago. Haven't had one in so long I can't remember. But orders still come in by snail mail. 

Wishlist for on-line stores

Otis -- ALL: would anyone here like to start selling goods/services on the Internet right now? Can you list *features* that you, as a merchant, would like to see and have available to you?

Richard Seltzer -- Otis -- Yes, I'd like to be able to start selling right now. I have a merchant credit card account. I would sell books (both printed and on diskette) and also related badges (illustrations from the Lizard of Oz). I'd just want it to be simple for customers to see what's available and make secure credit card transactions. Before the Web really got going, I was able to do transactions with people just sending email with their credit card information and never had a problem with security. Now, with all the hype about security issues, no one wants to operate that way; they will only buy on-line if they feel very comfortable about the credit card security element; and as a miniscule vendor, I'm not about to set that up myself.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Sounds like some are expecting the Cyber Mall act like a distributor and handle all aspects of the business. 

Business model -- support for fans and secondary businesses

Richard Seltzer -- All -- today on the Web, I see an increasing number of brand-name monster Web sites; and I see masses of small company and personal Web sites. Often the small sites deal with content that relates to the monster sites -- fans of movies and sports stars etc. swapping info and opinions, etc. Today the big companies tend to do whatever they can to shut down what they perceive as competition from small sites -- based on copyright/trademark considerations. I believe that that approach is short-sighted, and that they should try instead to gain value from the enthusiasm of the fans and the periperhal businesses they spawn. If it were relatively easy to set up a Cyberbazaars type site, which could host hundreds or thousands of small vendors, then large companies could use this approach to bring the fans and secondary businesses in -- give them a way to operate, to buy and sell and auction and swap related merchandise and collectibles etc., not as part of the main branded site, but associated with it (sort of a gray zone). Does this business model make sense to you?

Ashu -- Richard - Commenting on your Business Model question, I think that mega sites like are helpful in creating a general awareness to the masses, and establishing online shopping as a practical thing to do. However, in the longer run, I believe that they will be overcome by fast and nimble, and even rare products merchants who are small but spread out around the world. At that stage, the regular Brand name marketing will become necessary for the mega site to attract and retian business. Additionally they will have to add warehousing and financing and support services to add to their appeal.

Richard Seltzer -- Ashu -- it will be interesting to see how "brand" plays out on the Web. Yes, it will be relatively easy to sell brand merchandise -- people know what to expect -- from a wide variety of sites (you don't know the people running the site, but do trust the brand). But the little guys, the folks selling rare and hard to find and handmade goods -- that's what interests me the most: how will they/can they succeed? 

Distance Education

Richard Seltzer -- Kathleen -- Have you noticed the flood of useful followup notes from Tracy Marks? (Check the last few transcripts Many of them relate to distance education (which will be our focus next time -- December 18.)

Richard Seltzer -- Kathleen -- FYI, it looks like I'll play on-line tutor for a distance ed class being given by Nova University, starting in about a month. That should give me some interesting experience.

Kathleen Gilroy -- I'll take a look at the comments off-line. I'll be interested in your experience with Nova. 


Richard Seltzer -- All -- keep in mind that we will not be chatting next Thursday. I have to be at Internet World, where I'll be doing some live Webcasts (RealVideo), doing my speech on how to get the most out of AltaVista for finding and being found. Check for details. We'll return on December 18 to talk about distance education (an area which seems to be really booming right now).

Richard Seltzer -- All - Time is running out. Please, before you leave, post your email and URL addresses so we can keep in touch. (Don't count on the software to have caught it). As usual, I'll post the edited/threaded transcript in the next couple days. Check at And please send additional comments and questions to me at for possible inclusion with the transcript.

Chris -- All, Must get going. See you next time if I can get away.

Kathleen Gilroy -- Bye, everybody. See you on the 18th.

Ashu -- Bye, everybody. See you at InternetWorld.

tony -- Thank you Richard

Otis -- OK, we have to get back to preparing CyberBazaars for the Internet World.
Thank you Richard! bye

Richard Seltzer -- Thanks to all. Hope you can join us next time -- Thursday, Dec. 18 to talk about distance education.


Business on the Net

From: Tracy Marks <> Date: Thu, 27 Nov 1997 01:50:13 -0500

from Computer Currents Newsletter for December

Cover Story - Business on the NET

"The Internet is everywhere, and it's open 24 hours a day. Shouldn't your company be doing business on the Web? Find out when opening an online storefront makes sense; what the technical and security issues are; and which hardware, software, and services you need to do the job right."

Virtual Community List

From: Tracy Marks <> Date: Fri, 28 Nov 1997 19:23:30 -0500

Here are some recommended online community urls from the GNA Virtual Community Workshop list:

Date: Thu, 27 Nov 1997 00:35:01 -0700

Reply-To: "The GNA Virtual Community Workshop List (gna-vc)" <GNA-VC@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU>

From: "S. Kritikos" <skritiko@NYX.NET>

Subject: Recommendations for new members

...For those interested in community networks the best way is read one or both of the two theses recommended in the course:

Community Networks: Building Real Communities in a Virtual Space? 1996 Neil K. Guy

Communities On-line: Community-Based Computer Networks by Anne Beamish


Community and Civic Network discussion list

Communet is the premier mailing list for community networks. By contrast we cover the effect that technology has on our sense of community, so we cover a wider area of topics. Communet is a much larger list with well over 500 subscribers but it has been in operation for a few years now. It is rather "busy" list so check the archives before subscribing.


The Community Technology Centers' Network (CTCNet)

This is an association of 250 community centers worldwide. ...

Book -- How to Program a Virtual Community

From: "T. Marks" <> Date: Wed, 03 Dec 1997 03:12:58 -0500

Someone posted this on the message board for the zdu business community class:

How to Program a Virtual Community

Author: Michael Powers

ISBN: 1-56276-522-1

Subject: Virtual Communities

Cost: $39.99 US, $59.95 CN, 37.50 UK

Publisher: ZDPress

... it focuses more on pre-existing programs to use rather than starting from scratch. Comes with a CD-ROM in the back (what computer book doesn't?) and is written for the beginning to intermediate computer user. Available at

Class on Building an Online Community

From: Tracy Marks <> Date: Wed, 03 Dec 1997 16:33:33 -0500

I really recommend the Building an Online Community class at which has now started and is still open to auditors for only $4.95. It's in the business catalog at

Today's assignment, for example, is comparing the effectiveness of in contrast to Barnes and Noble. Students are engaging in a high level of quality discussion... dozens of posts already on the the subject of what constitutes effective community on a business site. The class book is Net Gain....

Tracy Marks, M.A. 

Distance Education at U. of Idaho

From: "John Watkins, The Simple Society" <> Date: Mon, 15 Dec 1997 13:53:12 -0500

This may be a useful site. I came across it in NetHappenings but haven't looked at it. There's another mailing list know as DEOS which deals exclusively with distance education but I haven't been able to find my reference to it as yet.

Distance Education at a Glance...

"This outstanding site from the University of Idaho guides educators through all phases of developing and delivering a course at a distance. Guide topics include an Overview, Strategies for Teaching at a Distance, Instructional Development, Evaluation, Instructional Television, Instructional Audio, Computers, Print, Strategies for Learning at a Distance, Research, Interactive Videoconferencing, the Web Copyright, and a Glossary."

Distance Education at Michigan State University

From:[SMTP:KORTEMEYER@NSCL.MSU.EDU] Sent: Monday, December 15, 1997 3:12:02 PM

I just received an email from Tyronne Lobo to inform me about an online chat on Thursday the 18th. I will be on vacation in Northern Michigan, but I will try to join you by laptop.

At Michigan State University we have been running a pilot project for online teaching and homework with a physics class that was attended by 770 students in 3 universities and 1 community college (MSU, University of Washington, University of Minnesota, and Westshore Community College in Scottsville, MI). Currently, we are implementing introductory biology, chemistry and geology into the system.

Besides the lecture resources, we have the homework online. It is personalized for the students, meaning each students gets a slightly different homework. The homework is graded immediately, and answer-dependent hints can be programmed

The homework types can be numerical, multiple choice, true/false and imagemap.

We have also a chatroom and a feedback feature.

The faculty interface allows it to develop homework and assemble the lecture resources with only a web-browser as the interface.

The URL for a demo-student login to a demo version of last semester's class is: Username: mmp Password: Physics Class: mmp

We have been running all those classes off one Digital Alpha Personal Workstation 433au with Digital Unix 4.0c.


Gerd Kortemeyer, Division of Science and Mathematics Education, Michigan State University 

Women and the Web

From: Tracy Marks <> Date: Sat, 13 Dec 1997 15:20:39 -0500

Survey: women want web sites that build relationships

Tracy Marks, M.A. 

Business community conference

From: "T. Marks" <> Date: Wed, 17 Dec 1997 16:01:40 -0500

Do you know about the conference on how to turn your web site into a successful business community?

from the Web site:

VIRCOMM: The New Management Conference on Business-Based Virtual Communities - Join new media executives for this two-day conference on how to turn your Web site into a community ... and your customers into partners.

February 3-4, 1998 Omni Rosen Hotel Orlando, Florida

Keynoted by: John Hagel III McKinsey & Company Co-Author of Net Gain

Also featuring: Linda Stone, Director, Virtual Worlds Group, Microsoft Corporation

Maria Wilhelm, President The WELL

ALSO I have opened my Amazon Associate bookstore, featuring almost 50 books on Internet search skills and resources: Windweaver Internet Search Skills Bookstore

Tracy Marks

DEOS-L list (distance education)

From: "John Watkins, The Simple Society" <> Date: Wed, 17 Dec 1997 11:59:35 -0500

Richard, sorry that I won't be able to join the discussion today. Thought this would be of some value to you.

Date: Wed, 17 Dec 1997 15:25:27 +0100 (MET)

From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi <tripathi@Amadeus.Statistik.Uni-Dortmund.DE>

Dear Distance Educators

The DEOS-L list (DEOS-L - The Distance Education Online Symposium) DEOS, the Distance Education Online Symposium, consists of DEOSNEWS and DEOS-L. DEOSNEWS is a biweekly, international, electronic journal about distance education. DEOS-L is a free international discussion forum about distance education, established to facilitate discussions of the issues presented in DEOSNEWS, as well as other issues of interest to distance educators.

To subscribe to DEOSNEWS and DEOS-L, just post the following commands to LISTSERV@LISTS.PSU.EDU



Scholars, researchers, administrators, and graduate students are invited to submit articles about distance education to DEOSNEWS. We do not have any objections if you would like to publish the article in a paper-based journal later.

Backissues of DEOSNEWS can be retrieved by posting the command


You may leave the list at any time by sending a "SIGNOFF DEOS-L" command to LISTSERV@LISTS.PSU.EDU. Please note that this command must NOT be sent to the list address (DEOS-L@LISTS.PSU.EDU) but to the LISTSERV address (LISTSERV@LISTS.PSU.EDU).

Previous transcripts and schedule of upcoming chats --

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