The Evolution of Online Commerce Platforms

19 December 2019
3 min read

The concept of commerce has come a long way in a short time. The days of peddling wares for handfuls of coin have passed into memory, and instead, we’re able to buy and sell almost anywhere, on almost any device. But how exactly did we get here? That’s precisely the question we’ll answer in this article as we trace the evolution of online commerce platforms – and it all began way back in the 1970s.

1979: The world’s first online shopping platform

It may be hard to believe, but the very first e-commerce platform was actually revealed in the 1970s. Pre-dating the internet by a couple of decades, the system was developed by English inventor Michael Aldrich and was primarily used for business-to-business solutions. Aldrich essentially modified a standard television so that a user interface could communicate with a computer system using a standard phone line.

1984: The launch of The Electronic Mall

As Aldrich continued to develop his digital commerce platform, others were also getting a slice of the e-commerce pie. One tentpole example is the launch of The Electronic Mall, a service created by Compuserve representing the first at-home e-commerce platform. By the mid-80s, personal computers were a lot more commonplace, and The Electronic Mall offered a glimpse of what was to come.

1990: The birth of the internet as we know it

Prior to 1990, the internet was in its infancy, meaning only very bespoke online e-commerce platforms were possible. This all changed when the father of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee, created the world’s first web browser, known as World Wide Web. E-commerce wouldn’t come into its own for a few more years, but this is a landmark moment in the history of online shopping.

1995-2001: The “dot-com boom”

Around the mid-90s, the internet became a phenomenon. So much so, in fact, that it led to the so-called “dot-com boom”, whereby investors believed any and all online ventures would be cash cows, so invested heavily. Of course, we know now that things didn’t quite pan out as these investors had hoped – but several e-commerce pioneers survived. Websites like Amazon (1995), eBay (1995), and Alibaba (1999) were all created during this period, and are – to this day – some of the world’s most successful e-commerce platforms.

2001-today: The rebirth and rise of e-commerce platforms

Following the “dot-com bubble” and subsequent crash, it took a little while for internet shopping to regain the trust of consumers, but over the first decade and a half of the new millennium, that’s just what happened. Between 2001 and today, e-commerce has gone from strength to strength. As initiatives such as SSL have made shopping even more secure, more and more digital commerce platforms have hit the mainstream. To put its success into context, recent stats suggest that 76% of Americans now shop online.

2019 and beyond: The mobile future of commerce platforms

It’s clear that e-commerce platforms are here to stay, but where do we go next? As of 2019, the trajectory is clear: mobile is the future. With over 95% of American adults owning a mobile device, it’ll come as no surprise that portable commerce platforms are the next step. This doesn’t just refer to phones and tablets, but smartwatches and other wearables too. Beyond that, laptops and notebooks are as popular as ever, giving even more choice to those looking to shop digitally whenever and wherever they are.

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