E-Commerce gets Real

By Mute Editor, 30 December 1999


Including: Sheep T. Iconoclast on Bluetooth, Josephine Berry on the net as cemetery, JJ King on Matthew Zook and the digital divide, Dr. Future on Imaginaria, John Bichard in conversation with Peter Molyneux and Mark Fisher on Y2K + Matthew Fuller's 'I am the mayor of London' and the Mute Text Monument to the Second Millennium.

Billboard posters, pull-out magazines, newspaper and TV advertising can leave you in no doubt: the European Internet revolution is here. Reeling from mixed media fanfare over the latest e-commerce company's IPO, you'd be forgiven for forgetting that only two years ago news of its demise, of an end of the hype and the honeymoon, was the order of the day.

One notional explanation for the blip has been that Europe is a slow, sceptical market with many obstructive infrastructural and regulatory legacies – were the digital economy to catch on here, it was always going to be in the shape of a fully differentiated new variant. Well, the new variant has arrived. Any prospective advantage this European breed has over the US's is held to come from the continent's positioning in the wireless, handheld and telephony markets. But, so fervent critics warn, European CEOs' apparent default desire for the stabilisers of 'light' governmental regulation could stand in financial glory's way.

Cut to the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle on 30th November. In a stand off with Robocops, pepper spray and rubber bullets, a coalition of protest groups draw attention to the inequities built into the WTO's operating principles, bringing the first day to a halt. And cut – to US company eToys's [] breezy legal victory over art gang etoy's continued use of a similar (but previously acquired) domain [].

However much cyberspace is cast as radically other, both these instances are exemplary of the political choices the e-commerce wave presents: net jurisdiction and regulation remains the next item on the collective agenda. This millennium Mute touches on UK e-commerce, gets Y2K-positive and asks Peter Molyneux, God of God games, some questions about Creation.

Pauline van Mourik Broekman <pauline AT>