BBN announces a new service bureau for companies that want to sell via the Web without confronting complex security and transaction issues.
Through a secure link to BBN, the offering lets a merchant's customers make credit card purchases from a Web site. BBN takes care of secure transactions, payment settlement, and sales tax calculations. Once the sale is completed, the service then notifies the merchant to fulfill the order.
A BBN spokesman likened the service to 800 number services that take phone orders in the same way.
IBM is expected to announce customers for its similar service later today, and other vendors are working to set up similar services, including First Union Bank and MCI Communications.
Initially, the BBN service targets firms that want to sell easily specified goods such as clothing, books, or software by credit card. BBN said it is open to adding service companies to Merchant Advantage.
Start-up costs are $7,000, and BBN will charge a two percent transaction fee with a minimum of $1. Merchants can built links between their existing systems and BBN's service, which can work with Web servers hosted at BBN, at other hosting services, or at the customer's premises.
"BBN has established a strong electronic commerce strategy based on the complete electronic commerce cycle," analyst Caroline Robertson of International Data Corporation said in a statement. "Merchant Advantage meets all the requirements for simple, Web-based electronic commerce."
The offering, which can be seen on BBN's home page, works with any Unix-based Web site that uses HTTP-D and the HTML Internet programming language.