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Software maker soups up e-wallets

Though e-wallets have been touted as a promising technology for years, start-up company Brodia believes it has cracked the code that could lead to widespread consumer adoption.

Though e-wallets have been touted as a promising technology for years, start-up company Brodia believes it has cracked the code that could lead to widespread consumer adoption.

In a space teeming with such competitors as Microsoft, CyberCash, and America Online, Brodia, formerly Transactor Networks, argues simply that handling online payments isn't enough. Brodia's new service adds features to organize the consumer's shopping experience by screening junk email, guarding privacy, and storing receipts and records.

The Brodia service, scheduled to launch today but now delayed, uses a "server side" wallet, which means the user doesn't need special software on his machine--a previous obstacle to e-wallet adoption. Instead, Brodia stores user data on a secure facility.

The service is free to consumers and many merchants. The company plans to make money from affiliate fees that give it a percentage of a consumer purchase, and from "bounties" for signing up new credit card customers, for example.

"We turn control back to the consumer," said Andrew Boer, Brodia's vice president of strategic development. "We are the only one that is doing something beyond filling in forms."

Brodia's free service will be available from its Web site and through financial institutions. It organizes records of orders placed, creates direct links to the customer service arms of online merchants, and customizes the user's product preferences. It also sets up a separate address for commerce-related email, manages multiple credit cards and shipping addresses, and lets consumers earn rebates or special offers from e-tailers, including Reel.com, CDNow, Barnesandnoble.com, and eToys.

Brodia's first distribution partner is credit card issuer MBNA. The company also intends to let affinity groups, such as nonprofits or activist organizations, offer the service. Rebates can be directed to sponsoring nonprofits, for example.

Brodia is involved in the ECML, or Electronic Commerce Modeling Language, initiative announced earlier this month with Visa and others. ECML is designed as a universal format for presenting payment and order forms for e-commerce sites.