A report from Gartner has revealed some light at the end of the online tunnel. Despite the current doom and gloom surrounding ecommerce, the analyst predicts that the business-to-business (B2B) market will grow to be worth $8.5tn by 2005.
This will be a huge increase on the figures from last year, which just topped $433bn. This year the market is expected to double its value to $919bn.
Lauren Shu, research director for Gartner's ebusiness group, said the forecast is based on the value of B2B goods and services "sold, resold and brokered over the internet through establishments every time they're turned over".
Britannica.com joins the job cull
Web encyclopaedia Britannica.com is the latest online venture to announce job losses, cutting its staff by one third and concentrating on subscription based services. The company axed 68 of its 220 employees, mostly from the free version of its website, and said that it would be focusing on its paid-for services from now on.
The company had already laid off around 70 workers at the end of last year. Don Yannias, Britannica.com's chief executive, said: "There was a time not long ago when most observers believed that internet services had to be supported mainly through advertising."
"We are out there in the marketplace, however, and we're convinced that a diversified business model combining free and subscription supported products is the road to success," he added.
Proposed web tax condemned
A scuffle over the future of taxation on goods bought over the internet was kicked off in the US Senate yesterday, after Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain said that applying the tax would be a killing blow for ecommerce.
An existing moratorium on discriminatory internet taxation expires this October, but a bill being championed by Senator Byron Dorgan would allow US states to use current taxation systems to collect sales tax from ecommerce vendors based in a different state or country. Dorgan's bill would allow states to adopt a one-rate-per-state approach, or base taxation on consumers' zip codes.
The outcome of the meeting was less than bright, with neither side willing to step down. "Reaching a consensus by October on the broader issues will be difficult," said McCain. "All interested parties must be willing to make significant sacrifices."
Blind to get wireless 'sight'
Tongue piercings could soon be seen in a new light after the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) announced that it was backing the development of a wireless direction device implanted in the tongue.
The device is being championed as a replacement for guide dogs and white sticks, but could also be used to help people move about in the dark or underwater, or even provide location based services.
The 'tongue display unit' only works on the tongue because it is constantly covered in conductive saliva - skin would not work because it goes from sweaty to dry very quickly.
A small camera mounted elsewhere on the body sends signals to the mouthpiece via a wireless link, and the user feels a tingling sensation on the left side of their tongue if they need to turn left, for example.
The RNIB said that by 2006 the tiny camera could be fitted to a pair of glasses with the rest of the unit fitting into the mouth. No piercings would be needed.
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