A new initiative is aimed at standardising online digital wallet software, so users could pay using different means without wasting time filling out differing forms.
A consortium of software vendors, credit card companies and online merchants was created last week to promote the Electronic Commerce Modelling Language (ECML, see www.ecml.org), which would standardise the data fields used in online shopping carts and promote digital wallet interoperability.
A digital wallet is a piece of software that stores common data such as name, credit card information, billing address and shipping address. Once a user decides to buy an item online, the wallet sends the user's information to a secure server, where the transaction is completed.
Forrester Research said that 66 per cent of shopping cart transactions are now abandoned by users before their purchases are completed because of the time consuming complexity of present procedures.
The availability of easy to use wallet software, either embedded as a Web browser plug-in or as a standalone application, would help to reduce that high give up percentage, the consortium said.
The group has united rivals Microsoft, AOL and Sun, and also includes American Express, Compaq, Cybercash Mastercard, IBM, SETCo, Trintech and Visa.
Merchant participation is key for the interoperable form to become pervasive, but already a range of online merchants, including Dell, have pledged to support the standard.
The specification has been submitted to standards bodies, including the Internet Engineering Task Force, and is available for perusal at www.ecml.org/spec.htm.
It defines the fields to be used in online forms and processing scripts, which can simply replace the fields the merchant already uses. For example, Ecom_ShipTo_Postal_Name_Last defines the surname of the person at the shipping address.
"There has never been a great technical problem with online wallets, and standardisation is a good thing," said Barry Parr, director of Internet and ecommerce strategies at IDC in the US.
"It's a recognition that no one company can control this market. Those merchants who 'get it' will jump on board quickly," he said. "However, it will take a while for consumers to adopt wallets.
"Interestingly, big sites like amazon.com have had an advantage due to the lack of a standard," Parr said. "This could be a major change in the landscape."
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