Web Retailers Adopt Online Payment Format

In a move they hope will finally help electronic cash take off, several leading Internet retailers Monday got behind a new universal format for digital wallets.

America Online Inc., American Express, Compaq Computer Corp., CyberCash, IBM Corp., MasterCard, Microsoft Corp., SETCo, Sun Microsystems, Transactor Networks and Visa USA all announced support for Electronic Commerce Modeling Language.

The format uses a set of field names to streamline the process merchants use to collect electronic data for shipping, billing and payment. It allows users to enter payment and other personal information once that can be used at a variety of online stores. Companies hope will increase the number of transactions at their e-commerce sites.

According to online research firm Jupiter Communications, 27 percent of online buyers ended up not completing an online purchase because of the annoyance factor of inputting their personal information.

Steve Ryan, senior vice president of emerging technologies for credit card giant Visa U.S.A., said the adoption of the standard should help advance electronic commerce.

“Up until now, there has not been a standard method for capturing information about which credit card, billing or shipping address consumers want to use in any given online transaction. Increasing interoperability across the Web through initiatives such as ECML is a major step to achieving the widespread adoption of e-commerce,” he said.

This is not the first attempt to circumvent the need to input credit card numbers when doing online purchasing. Cybercash was one of the first to offer digital wallets, which store personal information on a user’s computer. There have also been several other competitors that have come and gone.

Analysts say one of the biggest hurdles digital wallets have to climb is the fact that they must be installed on a user’s computer and set up properly.

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