Joint Electronic Payment Initiative

CommerceNet and the W3 Consortium are jointly initiating a multi-industry project to develop an Internet payment negotiation protocol.  If you are interested in participating or would like any further information please contact Jim Miller at W3C (jmiller@w3.org) or Tom Wills at CommerceNet (twills@commerce.net).  Please see also the W3C Electronic Payments overview.

1 Project Description

The project explores the technology required to provide negotiation over multiple payment instruments, protocols and transports. Examples of payment instruments include credit cards, debit cards, electronic cash and checks. Payment protocols include STT and SEPP (amongst others). They define the message format and flow required to complete the payment transaction. Payment transport encompasses the message transmission mechanism: S-HTTP, SSL, SMTP, and TCP/IP are all categorized as transport technologies that can be used for payment.

The project will demonstrate a full shopping experience, with real merchants, real products, and real payment systems over the Internet. The project will enable payment providers to test their systems in a real-world environment; it will enable browser vendors to refine the mechanisms they provide for connecting to payment provider software; it will enable server vendors to refine the negotiation protocol required for commerce applications; and it will enable merchants to test alternative user interface designs to study customer acceptance.

Customers will interact with merchants to make selections and purchase goods. The interactions include the delivery of information goods to the customer or the arrangements made for the delivery of physical goods. The focus of the project is on the purchase and payment phase of the interaction. It is here that an inevitable negotiation takes place: choice of payment instrument, protocol and transport.

In the real world today not all merchants accept all forms of payment; in the electronic world not all merchants will accept all combinations of payment transport and instrument. In the real world today, customers choose a payment instrument; in the electronic world they will expect to do the same. To support this, the Internet needs a standard mechanism through which applications can negotiate the appropriate payment modules and interface to them. The negotiation and linkage mechanisms must be sufficiently flexible to accommodate a wide range of payment instruments, data flows, transport mechanisms, and external hardware interfaces. We will explore mechanisms with which to negotiate one of many available payment instruments and transports.

2 Deliverables

Upon completion, CommerceNet and W3C will have a running demonstration, reference code, and protocol specifications. The negotiation protocol and the standard interface for payment modules will be published and submitted to appropriate standards committees. In addition, the documents will be available as W3C working drafts or proposed specifications.

A "lessons learned" white paper will be produced jointly by W3C, CommerceNet, and the participating members. It will be made available to members of both consortiums. The paper will make recommendations for follow-on work.

3 Project Resources and Organization

The project will be administered by a steering committee chosen jointly by W3C and CommerceNet. The steering committee will be co-chaired by Jim Miller (W3C) and Tom Wills (CommerceNet). There will be four subcommittees, with membership drawn from technical representatives of participating member companies; some companies may have representatives on more than one subcommittee:

Two members of each subcommittee will be chosen to form an eight person project team. They will work with the steering committee to produce the specifications and running code. The goal is to assure interoperability by having two vendors in each of the critical areas. They will also coordinate the work of their subcommittees to make sure that all project participants have equal input to the specifications.

In addition, W3C will provide technical personnel to support the effort, and CommerceNet will supply marketing and public relations resources. Other participating companies are expected to provide the time of appropriate technical personnel, as well as hardware and software resources as necessary.

Membership on a subcommittee is expected to require two hours per week of work, plus attendance at monthly meetings, for the 6 months of the project. Membership on the project team is expected to entail eight hours per week of work, attendance at meetings, and periods of more intense effort. Steering committee members will be expected to devote roughly 50% of their available time to the project.

4 Schedule and Milestones

Following is the proposed scheduled milestones and deliverables for this project:

December, 1995
Announcements and Participation solicitation
Open initial planning meeting
January, 1995
Initial project meeting
March, 1996
Initial progress report on payment negotiation
June, 1996
Demonstration of payment negotiation
July, 1996
Recommendations for further work and documents

5 Technology Ownership

Payments systems are owned by their respective providers and may or may not be proprietary. The message formats are open specification and intended for open publication. All technology provided by W3C will be released, according to their normal procedures, for public use 30 days after initial release to W3C member companies. The released software will remain copyright of W3C with unrestricted royalty free usage. The client browser/server technology will also remain proprietary to respective owner company.

Jim Miller
Created 01 Dec 1995
Last updated 04 Dec 1995