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New group to oversee SET

Visa and MasterCard have expanded oversight of the SET protocol by adding credit card companies American Express and Japan's JCB to a new oversight group.

Aiming to boost Internet commerce, Visa and MasterCard have expanded oversight of the SET (secure electronic transactions) protocol by adding credit card companies American Express and Japan's JCB to a new oversight group.

The four companies have agreed in principle to form a new entity, tentatively called SETco, to oversee implementation, compliance testing, and future versions of SET. MasterCard and Visa published SET 1.0 on June 1.

The decision to form SETco has been in discussion for months. The group could help broaden SET's appeal by demonstrating that its direction will be plotted by organizations beyond Visa and MasterCard. Among other duties, SETco will oversee a SET logo, unveiled in July, that indicates Internet merchants and software vendors have received SET certification.

The inclusion of JCB, the world's fourth-largest card brand with 35 million cards issued worldwide, reflects the fact that non-U.S. banks have been far faster to embrace the SET protocol, at least in pilot tests, than their U.S. counterparts.

The infrastructure to handle SET transactions, which require special software and digital IDs for consumers, Web merchants, and banks, is still being put into place.

Initially SETCo will focus on managing the "root key" for SET digital certificates--which vouch for the identities of buyers, Web stores, and card processors--and overseeing SET software testing and compliance, which a new organization called Tenth Mountain, a unit of SAIC, is contracted to conduct.

SET has taken longer to finalize and implement than sponsors Visa and MasterCard had projected back in February 1995 when they announced they would merge competing efforts to standardize Internet card purchases.

Within SETCo, the four charter members will hold equal voting rights. The SETCo announcement did not indicate whether membership would be open to other card companies that endorse SET. The body does not include the technology companies that assisted in developing the SET protocol.