The Web Commerce Interest Group is closed (September 2019)

W3C launched the Web Payments Interest Group in October 2014 then changed the name to “Web Commerce Interest Group” in 2017 to match the group’s broader charter. The group closes on 14 September 2019; a summary of the group’s successes is available.

A number of mechanisms may be used to bring new Web Commerce ideas into W3C:

Many thanks to the participants of the Web Commerce Interest Group!

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Web Commerce Interest Group Meeting at W3C TPAC in Lyon

For a few beautiful days in late October, the W3C held its annual Technical Plenary and Advisory Committee meeting (TPAC) at the Cité Centre de Congrès de Lyon.  As in years past, hundreds of information technology professionals attended TPAC to advance standards for the World Wide Web.  As part of TPAC, the Web Commerce Interest Group (WCIG) met October 25 and 26.  TPAC provides an opportunity for groups within the W3C to collocate and interact on topics face to face, and the WCIG meeting took full advantage of that opportunity.  See the meeting agenda for links to all presentations.

The WCIG is a forum within the W3C to discuss emerging trends in commerce, with special attention given to topics that would benefit from standardization.  The primary stakeholders in Web commerce are all those who interact on the Web for the sale or purchase of goods and services, including consumers, merchants, and suppliers of systems and technologies that enable transactions.  On the first day, the group discussed the ever changing regulatory environment, the expanding role of identifying artifacts (credentials) in commerce transaction flows, as well as the emerging role of new technologies in solving commerce use cases.  On the second day, the group discussed issues surrounding adoption of W3C standards in the commerce space (including payments), as well as industry priorities for standards in the near term.

Regulations Regarding EU Payments

During the past few years, the regulatory environment in Europe has been dominated by Payment Services Directive (PSD2).  This directive gives much more control of how user data is used to the users themselves. PSD2 adoption simultaneously promotes consumer benefiting competition as well as the need for stronger identity checks.  David Balaschk (Deutsche Bundesbank) walked the group through the current European regulatory landscape, progress on PSD2 implementations, and progress on supporting instant payments in Europe.

Verifiable Credentials and the Web

The Verifiable Credentials Working Group (VCWG)  joined the WCIG in discussion of topics associated closely with credentials and commerce on the web.

Dan Burnette, co-chair of the VCWG (ConsenSys) reviewed the progress on use cases and the data model for credentials.  He described a test suite designed to help validate proof of concept efforts, and discussed the ongoing adoption of VCWG work in financial services and trade organizations.

Next in the session, Manu Sporny (Digital Bazaar) examined use of new standards from the Web Authentication Working Group that have impact on credentials.  He offered a demo of the use of credentials in a custom-built Chromium browser.  During the demo the group examined the issues of using a digital wallet to store credentials, and how private keys can be handled.

Kim Duffy (Learning Machine) and Joe Andrieu (Legendary Requirements), co-chairs of the Credentials Community Group, helped the group understand upcoming developments and potential standardizations in the credentials area.  Linda Toth (Conexxus) presented the progress in implementing a Digital Offers Ecosystem and the potential standardization opportunities for the W3C in those efforts. 


Arnaud Le Hors (IBM) gave a talk on Hyperledger, a Linux Foundation project.  Hyperledger is an open source, distributed ledger on blockchain.  In the course of the discussion, Arnaud referenced different commerce related implementations using Hyperledger such as Everledger and Food Trust.  The main uses for blockchains in commerce focus on areas where shared and consensually verified data is required.  He highlighted the differences between implementations that require privacy vs. classic blockchain examples like BitCoin, and also discussed the many feature contributions to the Hyperledger framework.

Digital Contracts 

Contracts, implicit and explicit, are at the core of all commerce.  Allen Brown (Deixis) gave a detailed and forward thinking presentation on how contracts might be digitized on distributed ledgers.  He discussed the mathematical basis of digital contracts, and how digital contracts can control and record the execution of actions addressed by the contracts.  Keeping the contracts and the resulting threads of execution visible between parties – using blockchain ledgers – could make automating contracts easier.  In contrast to some other efforts to share contracts using blockchains, the introduction of a mathematical basis for contracts makes it possible to certify (or “prove”) that important contract components actually do what they’re intended to do.

Merchant Adoption

The Payment Request API, authored by the W3C Web Payments Working Group, is now shipping in all major browsers and is increasingly supported in gateway libraries.   Ian Jacobs (W3C) led the session where the group discussed outreach to merchants and service providers.  The scalability that the Payment Request API can provide will be a substantial benefit to both consumers and implementers once it’s more widely adopted.

Gildas Le Louarn (Lyra Networks) began by presenting a thoughtful exploration of issues that merchants, consumers, and service providers have with the uptake of current W3C payment standards.  By providing both “pros” and “cons” from the perspective of the stakeholders, he exposed numerous areas for continued discussion on topics including consistency of both the user and the implementer experience, as well as security concerns.

Continuing discussion, the group examined how existing on-line in-app mobile applications (e.g. loyalty) allow merchants or loyalty providers to tailor the payment experience to some extent.

Industry Priorities

In the wrap-up session, the WCIG discussed continuing issues with current implementations as well as additional topics to watch:

  • Transaction abandonment continues to be a problem for Web commerce and mobile commerce in general.
  • Merchants and service providers are involved at W3C, but more involvement from issuing banks is essential.
  • Browser vendors will continue to work to improve the user experience aspects of Payment Request API.
  • New technologies such as VR and AR (XR) provide new challenges for creating an integrated user experience.
  • Support for “order ahead” as well as potential uses for blockchain technology in commerce are in discussion in merchant groups today.
  • Merchants continue to deploy in-app applicationseven though consumers show signs of app fatigue.

The group finished the meeting with a reminder of the on-going monthly teleconferences for the WCIG (the next one is scheduled for January 28) and a call for topics for future meetings.

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The Commerce Enabled Web: Kicking off the Web Commerce Interest Group at TPAC 2017

Two weeks before Black Friday 2017, the W3C Web Commerce Interest Group had its inaugural meeting.  The meeting was part of the annual TPAC meetings, and was held in Burlingame, California. The agenda and minutes are available.

I know you’re thinking: “Isn’t the Web already the number-one commerce driver?  Aren’t you a little late to the party?”  The answers are “yes” and “no.”  The Web continues to have ripe opportunities for standardizing a multitude of activities that can benefit commerce.  While we do a lot of commerce on the Web today, much of the infrastructure is “invented as needed” and non-standard, and under those conditions implementations introduce complexity and barriers to entry.

Some Early History – Web Commerce and W3C

On August 22, 1994, I witnessed a demonstration of PizzaNet at the SCO Forum[1] at UCSC.  This demonstration featured a web page through which you could order pizza.  The project was a collaboration between the Santa Cruz Operation and PizzaHut, Inc., and the original PizzaNet is still reachable on the Web.  The demonstration took about an hour because the delivery driver didn’t have a GPS or any other way to find us.  And payment was made with a ten-dollar bill.

A little over a month later, in October, 1994, the W3C was founded.  So, why, at this late date, would the W3C form a Web Commerce Interest Group? Continue reading

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Web Commerce IG at TPAC 2017

The co-Chairs of the Web Commerce IG and I are building our agenda for our upcoming face-to-face meeting, 9-10 November. Though a work in progress, we are looking at a number of use cases where we might make use of Payment Request API, including:

We are also lining up discussion of:

  • Merchant perspectives, including around digital offers
  • Security evaluation of Payment Request API
  • Verifiable claims (update)
  • Interledger payments (update)

I look forward to catching up with colleagues all week.

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Web Commerce Interest Group Launched

Today we launched the Web Commerce Interest Group (formerly the Web Payments Interest Group) with a new charter. Working with co-Chairs David Ezell, Ken Mealey, and Dapeng (Max) Liu, we are working on our agenda for the first face-to-face meeting under this new charter. We meet 9-10 November during W3C’s TPAC 2017.

The Chairs and I are reaching out to Web Commerce IG participants to hear what topics are most important to you. I’d love to hear from you over the next few weeks, and look forward to seeing you at TPAC.

Note: the previous charter of the Web Payments IG is still available for archival purposes.

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Improving Web Commerce

W3C is expanding its Web Payments discussions to encompass Web Commerce.

We have been doing a bit of this already, exploring digital offers, digital receipts, and in-car payments. A proposed Web Commerce Interest Group charter more clearly invites participants to study use cases and requirements for omni-channel commerce, invisible payments, loyalty programs and coupons, virtual reality payments, fraud mitigation, and more.

The co-Chairs —David Ezell (NACS), Ken Mealey (American Express), and Dapeng Liu (Alibaba)— and I expect the broader Commerce focus will further reinvigorate participation. I think we will succeed if:

  • we identify business use cases that the W3C Members care about,
  • we make it easy for people to elaborate those use cases to the point where we understand whether the Web would need new capabilities to fulfill those use cases.

Personally I find it challenging to start with business use cases and end up with a thorough (Web technology) gap analysis. To do this well, we will need a mix of participants: those with industry expertise and those with an understanding of Web architecture. We achieved that alchemy in 2015, leading to enthusiastic support to “streamlined checkout” as the mission of the Web Payments Working Group. At that point, a number of the Web technologists then (happily) began to focus on the deliverables of the Working Group, another reason that we are broadening the scope of the Interest Group. I hope to re-establish a productive business/technology mix through this rechartering.

If all goes well, the Web Commerce Interest Group will launch mid-September and hold its first face-to-face meeting on 9-10 November during TPAC 2017. What use cases would you like to see us prioritize? And more importantly: will you join us to help drive the work?

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On the Shoulders of Giants: Web Payments IG Meets Face to Face at the Chicago Merchandise Mart

Chicago Merchandise Mart

The Mart – Wikipedia

After World War Two, American commerce escalated in ways unimaginable earlier in the century. The Chicago Merchandise Mart stands as one of the centers of that escalation, providing a venue for some of the period’s greatest thought leaders in commerce:  Field, Montgomery Ward, Rosenwald and Wood (Sears, Roebuck and Company), Wanamaker, Filene, and Hartford (A&P).

Fittingly, the most recent face to face meeting of the W3C Web Payments Interest Group convened in the Mart on March 22, 2017.  In attendance were representatives of merchant consortiums, credit card brands, as well as telecom and technology representatives.  As the Interest Group has matured, its discussions have extended beyond payments to Web commerce more broadly. At this meeting, we discussed several topics that will shape our agenda through 2017.

Ted Guild (W3C) presented use cases for Connected Vehicle Payments, highlighting both the special aspects of vehicle initiated payments as well as some unique challenges in this area.  Ted has proposed that we create a joint task force with the Automotive and Web Platform Business Group to deepen our understanding of these use cases.

Security in Web Payments is an on-going concern, and Ken Mealey (American Express) gave some explicit focus to the challenges in securing payments on the Web in “The Case for Greater Web Payments Security.”  As merchants and card brands apply new security measures (such as EMV) to traditional card payments, payment fraud moves to areas unaffected by those measures.  Ken recommended that the group devote more attention to tokenization.  He also suggested that we develop relationships with external security focused groups like PCI, EMVCo, and FIDO Alliance, and work to provide educational material to users of the Working Group’s APIs.

Traditional retail transactions rely on receipts to provide a legal record of purchases.  This record fulfills the needs of tax reporting, personal record keeping, expense reimbursement, applying for refunds, and other functions as well.  Digital Receipts for Web Payments could fulfill these needs while adding the convenience of automated handling.  David Ezell (NACS) presented potential scenarios for including receipt handling in the flows of Web Payments, as well as some of the currently available options for representing those receipts electronically.  There was support in the group for the idea of merchants being able to return a digital receipt to a “payment app” as a follow-on to the Payment Request API.

Retail offers align consumers and merchants for mutual benefit:  consumers get better deals, and merchants get more sales as well as more loyal consumers.  The Digital Offers Community Group is exploring how to make Digital Offers work on the Web and with Web Payments.  Linda Toth (NACS and Conexxus) presented the current state of the Community Group work, as well as highlights of the proposed Digital Offers Use Cases.  To advance the discussion, Manu Sporny (Digital Bazaar) presented a demonstration of a potential digital offers system built using W3C recommendations.

Without regulations, chaos would rule in payments.  Keeping up with what regulations apply and where they apply is the job of the Regulatory Landscape Task Force, chaired by Jean-Yves Rossi (Canton Consulting).  Jean-Yves presented the current work of the task force and explored how to move that work forward.

At the end of the meeting, the Interest Group decided to pursue all of these topics in the coming months.  Once again, the Mart provided a venue for new thought in commerce.

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Discussion in Chicago – Priorities for 2017

The Web Payments Interest Group meets in Chicago on 22 March. On its agenda: priorities for 2017. We will discuss:

  • How to raise awareness among regulators globally about W3C’s work, and help ensure that deliverables align with existing and emerging regulations
  • Automotive payments use cases
  • Digital offers (coupons, loyalty, etc.) and digital receipts
  • Improving payment security on the Web
  • Web payments using mobile money (in cooperation with GSMA)

I look forward to the discussion and reconnecting with colleagues!

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New Digital Offers Community Group Launched

Digital Offers are an essential component in commerce on-line, sharing characteristics of Digital Marketing and of traditional incentives such as Loyalty and Coupons.   A Task Force associated with the Web Payments Interest Group has been examining some scenarios to determine opportunities to make it easier and more secure for all actors in the ecosystem to manage, distribute, use, and settle digital offers.

On November 4, the first meeting of the Digital Offers Community Group was held to begin work on identifying standardization opportunities for W3C.  The Community Group, being chaired by Linda Toth of Conexxus, includes members of the web development community, as well as merchant groups and coupon industry professionals.  The Community Group is evaluating problem statements and use cases, including a set of initial discussion topics.

Please consider joining the Community Group; more information is available in the draft charter as well.

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Web Payments IG meets at TPAC in Lisbon

Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II

Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II

W3C convened recently for its annual big meeting (called TPAC) in Lisbon, Portugal.  This incredible venue – its history, architecture, art, people, food, weather – provided a fitting backdrop for the serious topics under discussion by the over 500 participants.  This larger meeting included the seventh face to face meeting for the Web Payments Interest Group, whose primary activity is to identify standardization opportunities for W3C in the area of Web Payments.

In pursuing this goal, the IG discussed topics ready for current approval, topics that need further work, ideas that might form part of future work, and topics relevant to making sure the Web Payments fits into the larger payments environment.

Continue reading

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