The rapid growth of the World Wide Web in recent years has created a few problems with online commerce -- some cultural, some technological. People have fears about security that aren't technologically based, for example.
Those are usually answered with the standard arguments that I've heard on TV, and on mass transit, not just in computer labs:
"Oh, you won't give your credit card number to a computer, but you'll hand it to that waiter/clerk/gas station guy/government official?"
But there are also technical issues of security, especially as certain browsers become more and more integrated with certain operating systems.
However, at the moment, "digital cash" options over the Internet aren't nearly as convenient as credit cards for the majority of potential online consumers. Although, with secure servers, the risks are truly minimal.
But my main argument looks at the bottom line. There is just too much money at stake here for the technology and security issues not to be resolved. Studies have shown that Internet commerce will account for as much as hundreds of millions of dollars in sales by 2000 or so.
A study done for AT&T found that many consumers are ready to spend the money now -- if the products were there to buy.
More and more marketers are going to take the plunge. There have been some high-profile examples of businesses that were born online (like CDNow, and Amazon.com), but existing brands are going to see what they can do as well. For example, Wal-Mart recently launched an impressive 20,000 items for sale at its site.
Everyone's got a stake. The position of the marketer is obvious, but companies that make the servers want the best possible security as well.
Also, don't forget the credit card companies themselves. They will be partnering with the server manufacturers to help brand the technology, and assure customers that their credit card numbers are safe.
When will employers realize every Webmaster can't know everything -- that's what I see in job openings posted on every resume service. Enough already!
For those who haven't seen them, job listings for Webmasters look a lot like laundry lists. Perhaps the problem lies with managers having too high expectations, or perhaps the human resources people know a lot of jargon but aren't sure what it means.
Whatever, the result is postings seeking people who can write, edit, design, program, implement, manage and troubleshoot a Web site.
While it might be important for a Webmaster to have some knowledge of the different aspects of site building, you're rarely going to find anyone who is good in all these disparate skill sets.
When will it end? When more employers realize that making a Web site is not really a one-person project.
Correction: In the January/February edition of Inquiring Minds, we incorrectly reported that "Infoseek doesn't support META keywords because there is nothing to stop people from putting whatever they want in that section." It is the search engine Excite that doesn't support META tags, for that reason.