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Netscape tackles Web commerce

Netscape wants to make it easier for developers to fulfill the promise of electronic commerce over the World Wide Web.

Netscape wants to make it easier for developers to fulfill the promise of electronic commerce over the World Wide Web.

The company is shaping a series of commerce-related products that will be aimed at users of its Web servers and high-end commercial application line, which includes the Istore, Merchant, Publishing, and Community systems.

In May, Netscape will publish documentation on its Web site for a series of application programming interfaces (APIs) for its applications that will let developers use standard and documented methods to customize Web sites built on top of those applications.

For example, the company will provide APIs for adding membership, access control, search, agent server, and billing features to Web sites, said Andres Espineira, director of commercial applications product marketing at Netscape. The APIs in fact already exist in the commercial applications, but until now they have been closed to developers.

Initially, the APIs will be geared toward C and C++ developers, but will eventually work with Java and JavaScript applications, according to Espineira.

The APIs are only part of Netscape's commerce plans. The company is also considering offering add-on software to help developers build commerce applications faster by adding prebuilt components onto Netscape's server applications.

The company is serious enough about the idea to demonstrate a prototype of one such component, code named Cash Register, at its Internet Developers Conference this week in San Francisco. Cash Register, which was written in JavaScript, includes credit-card capture, settlement, and authorization capabilities.

Cash Register and comparable components for automating commerce-related functions might be sold as individual add-ons for use with Netscape servers or offered in bundles, according to Netscape officials, who would not commit to any specific marketing plan.

"There's nothing stopping developers from doing C and C++ routines [for the components like these] on their own," said Romeo Baldeviso, product line manager for Integrated Applications at Netscape. "[But] we'll be providing run-time libraries that greatly speed their development."