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Net Prophet - by Dylan Tweney

December 14, 1998

Who should be named Netrepreneur of the year? Cast your vote

The past year has been a big one for Internet commerce.

A year ago, lots of people were talking about commerce on the Internet, but not many had actually made purchases online. Now, it seems, everyone is doing it: using the Web to buy books, CDs, wine, airplane tickets, Christmas gifts, and more.

A recent report from Forrester Research pegged 1998 online retail sales at $7.8 billion, $3.5 billion of which is expected to occur in the fourth quarter, when holiday sales peak.

I take research figures like these with a big pinch of salt, and you should too, but one thing is clear: More and more consumers are feeling comfortable shopping online. Even the stodgiest mainstream companies are turning on the I-commerce engine full bore.

Still, it's not companies, but people who have really set off this I-commerce explosion. I'm talking about the "netrepreneurs" who have sparked the emerging Net economy through their innovations, ideas, and actions.

Consider, for example, the founder of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos. He has made his company into a role model for I-commerce, and the Amazon.com site continues to set standards of excellence for usability, ease of ordering, and customer service. This year, Bezos extended his company's charter beyond bookselling into the CD and video markets -- and many other product lines may be in the offing.

No account of the year in I-commerce should go without mentioning Pierre Omidyar, the founder of online auction site eBay. This online auction-cum-flea market has been in operation for several years, quietly amassing a base of devoted buyers and sellers who trade all kinds of collectibles, curios, art, antiques, and just plain stuff.

Then, this fall, eBay made its initial public offering on the stock market, and the stock zoomed to stratospheric levels. Whether the stock belongs at its current heights is open to debate, but one thing's for sure: Thanks to Omidyar, a lot more people are paying attention to the auction model now.

Or, for sheer influence on the Internet, consider Ira Magaziner. Magaziner recently left his advisory post in the Clinton administration amid swirling controversy over the reorganization of the domain name system. Nevertheless, he played a key role in keeping the federal government's paws off the Internet economy in its early, fragile stages.

But there are dozens of other exceptional individuals, from programmers and site architects to executives and policy-makers, who have done as much -- if not more -- to shape business on the Internet.

When InfoWorld publishes its annual Product of the Year issue in February, I'll announce the recipient of the first annual InfoWorld Netrepreneur of the Year award.

Help me pick the winner: Send me your nomination, explaining why the person you are nominating deserves to win.

Vote as many times as you want, and encourage your friends to do the same. You can even nominate yourself, if you've got enough chutzpah.

I won't be counting the quantity of votes, but the quality of the nominees' contributions to I-commerce. The decision of the judge (that's me) will be final -- but I can't make the call without your help.

So write to me at dylan@infoworld.com or visit my online forum at www.infoworld.com/printlinks, and tell me: Who do you think has done the most for Internet commerce in the past year?

Dylan Tweney (dylan@infoworld.com) has been covering the Internet since 1993. He edits InfoWorld's intranet and Internet-commerce product reviews.

Previous columns by Dylan Tweney

AOL-Netscape merger foreshadows dark days for independent media
December 7, 1998

When taking measure of e-commerce, don't forget about the costs
November 30, 1998

Portal site for teens sheds some light onto possible future of Internet commerce
November 23, 1998

Catalog City site has potential to bring an end to a flood of paper.
November 16, 1998

Every column since August, 1997

Please direct your comments to InfoWorld Electric.

Copyright © 1999 InfoWorld Media Group Inc.

IBM is the proud sponsor of the I-Commerce section on InfoWorld Electric.

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