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7/11/2007
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Apple, Amazon, eBay, RIM, And Google Lauded For E-Commerce Innovation

The Software & Information Industry Association Wednesday named the top 10 most significant developments in e-commerce over the past decade.

Apple's iTunes, Amazon, eBay, RIM's BlackBerry, and Google -- both for search and AdWords -- rank among the 10 most significant developments in e-commerce over the past decade, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) said on Wednesday.

The Washington, D.C.-based industry trade group also included broadband penetration, open standards (especially HTML), Wi-Fi, and user-generated content on its list. The list is intended to mark 10 years since the Clinton administration released the "Framework for Global Electronic Commerce," a policy document that aimed to foster business and consumer confidence in the Internet.

"So many choices that today seem so obvious, were not at all obvious back then," said Ken Wasch, president of SIIA. "Ira Magaziner had to fight off the International Telecommunications Union that thought it ought to regulate the Internet. There were some people who argued for an FCC-like regulatory structure. The only regulatory structure was ICANN, which, for all of its problems, worked."

At least as interesting as the 10 developments singled out by the SIIA are some of the ones that didn't make the cut. The passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), voice over IP, the founding of Salesforce.com, the Apache Web server, and the plummeting cost of digital storage are among the innovations and events that the SIIA's 75 "policy and business wonks" passed over, said Ken Wasch, president of SIIA.

Although Wasch praised the way the government's policy helped the Internet develop, he expressed disappointment that not everything worked out as well as was hoped at the time. "There was more of a belief back then that somehow the Internet would be a democratizing force," he said. "And that has proven not to be the case."

Beyond the starry-eyed optimism of Internet boosters in the mid-90s that overestimated technology's capacity to change entrenched cultures, the Internet's failure as a force for democratization can be laid at the feet of prominent Internet companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, which punted when confronted by anti-democratic regimes. Rather than stand up for the principles they espoused in the U.S., Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo asked the U.S. government to stand up for them. However, such failure to rise to the occasion seems positively heroic when compared to the technology vendors that arm anti-democratic regimes with censorship tools.

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