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Open Trading Protocol Standards for Internet Commerce Now Available For Comment and Implementation
OTP Consortium continues to grow with over 30 companies now propelling the development of this standard for retail trading over the Internet

LONDON, Jan. 12, 1998 . . . For the first time, a global standard for retail trade on the Internet has been published and is available now on the Internet. The complete specification for the Open Trading Protocol (OTP) developed by the leaders in Internet commerce has been posted for public comment, and pilot implementation and trials.

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Open Trading Protocol

The OTP website (http://www.otp.org) gives access to the OTP specification, informational material as well as an email forum to facilitate the exchange of comment and recommendations by merchants, vendors and financial institutions. The website will also provide any updates to the specification that come as a result of this exchange. The OTP standards enable a consistent framework for multiple forms of electronic commerce, ensuring an easy-to-use and consistent consumer purchasing experience regardless of the payment instrument or software and hardware product used. The protocol is freely available to developers and users, and builds on XML, an emerging standard for information exchange on the Internet. As a set of truly open standards, the protocol is not "owned" by any one company, and its development will be managed by an appropriate independent organization.

"The publishing of the OTP standards represents an important milestone in the development of electronic commerce," said Michael Keegan, CEO, Mondex International, a consortium member. "If the potential of electronic commerce is to be fully realized, it will flourish only in a truly open and interoperable environment, an environment that the OTP standards provide."

"Electronic commerce is really starting to click. The OTP specification has been designed to support and complement other specifications like SET™ (Secure Electronic Transactions) and the EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) chip card specification to offer a consistent online interaction for consumers, merchants and banks using any number of payment options," said Steve Mott, Senior Vice President, Electronic Commerce/New Ventures, MasterCard International. "Standards are the key to the Internet, and they're the key to making it easy for our customers to become e-businesses," said Mark Greene, vice president, IBM Internet payments and certification. "OTP has done a significant service to the industry by making this standard available for all of us."

The OTP initiative, established in anticipation of what is expected to be a multi-billion dollar industry by the turn of the century, now gains the support of DigiCash and SIZ, two leaders in retail electronic payment systems (see Notes to Editors). Today's announcement that DigiCash, a pioneer in the development of electronic payment systems, and SIZ Computer Science Center of the German Savings Banks, a German leader in smart card introductions, especially GeldKarte, will both support OTP as a global standard for retail trade on the Internet demonstrates the growing momentum for the standard. Thirty other members of the OTP consortium have brought OTP from a concept to a significant standard in the Internet marketplace in just nine months.

"The OTP will ensure that traders, retailers and shoppers will all speak the same electronic language," said Michael C. Nash, president and CEO, DigiCash. "We fully anticipate that Internet shopping will quickly become more popular in the next few years, and the OTP standards will help that process."

Alexander von Stülpnagel, CEO of SIZ, agreed. "The most important need for the success of Internet commerce is the existence of a framework which handles the whole business transaction and where different payment systems can fit in. OTP is this framework which can ensure that all business partners are provided with systems for global and local Internet commerce."

The OTP standards were pioneered by AT&T, Hewlett-Packard Company, MasterCard International, Mondex International, and Open Market Inc., as well as all of Mondex International's shareholding banks. Others who have combined with the effort to develop the OTP include Hitachi, Royal Bank of Canada, BT, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, CyberCash, Dot Matrix, First Data Corp., Fujitsu, GIS, Hyperion, IBM, Information & Database Network, Intertrader, JCP Ltd., MPACT Immedia, Inc., Mercantec, Netscape Communications Corporation, Nokia, Oracle, Smart Card Integrations Ltd., Spyrus, Sun Microsystems, Unisource, VeriFone and Wells Fargo.

The Internet marketplace is growing rapidly and is expected to be a $200 billion industry by 2000, according to Forrester Research analysts. However, this marketplace is critically dependent upon commonly accepted universal standards for trading, security and commercial operations. This protocol will reduce the merchant cost of setting up and doing business on the Internet, while retaining the flexibility to offer products and services in differentiated and innovative ways.

With the number of people who have purchased online currently reaching 10 million, according to Nielsen Media Research, the OTP standards will play a key role in rapidly increasing that number by providing greater confidence in the efficiency and reliability of the Internet marketplace. With the benefits of online shopping - greater access to information and increased control in searching for goods and services - fast becoming evident, consumers, operating within the OTP standards, are expected to shop online with confidence and ease, regardless of the payment method, instrument, or software/hardware components they use.

The OTP standards specify how Internet trading transactions can occur easily, safely and efficiently for all parties, independent of the method of payment - very similar to the trading environment in the physical world. Many existing protocols such as Secure Electronic Transaction (SET), a global industry standard for secure credit card payments over the Internet (see Notes to Editors), focus on making a payment. The OTP standards complement but don't replace these protocols by providing a clearly understood set of rules that cover the following:

  • offers for sale;
  • agreements to purchase;
  • payment (by using existing payment products, such as: SET, Mondex, CyberCash, GeldKarte, etc.);
  • the transfer of goods and services;
  • delivery;
  • receipts for purchases;
  • multiple methods of payment;
  • support for problem resolution;
  • payment brand and protocol selection.
In addition to providing consumers with a consistent approach to trading on the Internet, consumers will also have records of purchases which could be used for tax purposes, making expense claims, feeding into financial management software or sending a claim back to a merchant to solve a problem.

Notes to Editors:
SIZ focuses on setting standards for the German Savings Bank Organization (GSBO) in terms of architecture, methodology and products, providing consulting services and coordinating joint application development of IT centers (but not developing applications on its own). This is done in close cooperation with the IT centers and the Deutscher Sparkassen- und Giroverband (DSGV). According to its mission, SIZ is basically covering all of IT, with special emphasis on technology (systems, telecommunications, office), security, application coordination and application provision. One of SIZ's tasks was the introduction of Germany's electronic purse, the GeldKarte. Now, 40 million GeldKartes are issued by the GSBO.

Founded in 1990, DigiCash is a pioneer in the development of electronic payment systems that provide security and privacy. Available for open and closed systems and network use, DigiCash's products are based on patented developments in public key cryptography devised by Dr. David Chaum. DigiCash's first product was a road-toll system developed for the Dutch government. DigiCash's cryptographic technology has also enabled the company to develop smart cards for a diverse range of applications including CAFE, the smart card-based payment system operated by the Headquarters of the European Union in Brussels. The CAFE project was funded by the European Union, just one of the several European Union technology projects with which DigiCash has been involved, designing cards that feature pre-paid cash replacement functions, loyalty schemes and access control.

SET (Secure Electronic Transaction) - a global standard - secures credit card payments over the Internet by utilizing digital certificates, which validate the genuine identities of both cardholders and merchants participating in transactions via the Web, combined with the encryption of individual card numbers.

A reprint of David Birch's (Hyperion) recent Financial Times Virtual Finance Report article on the concepts behind shopping protocols - such as OTP - is available from David in electronic form (PDF). E-mail directly to daveb@hyperion.co.uk to request a copy.

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