The Internet mall idea boomed then died and then Amazon and Alibaba grew up

At the beginning of the Internet, people envisioned a shopping mall.  They had no e-commerce experience or history. The technology was too low bandwidth to deliver today's experience. Pictures and catalog content had to be delivered "overnight" to potential customers if you wanted an actual catalog experience. The analogy broke down due to technology and the unfettered access customers had to any website.

MCI wanted to build an Internet Mall at the dawn of the Internet era.  They and everyone else knew that shopping would be big on the Internet and they envisioned that they could manage the mall front and that companies would lease space on the mall website. The technology was limited so the thing would only work if people would leave their computers on at night to download product catalogs. The project product people used analogies and patterns they were comfortable with when putting together proposals.

The development team was pretty vocal that the internet wasn't going to work that way. Then people realized that a company only "needed" to have an internet domain name to stand up their storefront that would get the same exposure as all the national and international brands.  Domain names suddenly became investments.  A person I knew sold for 1 million dollars.  MCI's project died.  

Amazon was just an online book company.

Everyone wasn't equal on the internet. Availability didn't equal marketing reach. Managing an online business can be hard.   Big companies failed on their own internet sites and ended up selling through other companies. Some did this multiple times and blew millions of dollars.  Eventually e-commerce competence became necessary or you had to rely on someone else to stay relevant. The development team had been right and not right.

Today Amazon accounts for 45% of all US e-commerce with over 200,00 sellers that essentially rent space in what is essentially the Amazon mall. Sellers still need to market their products. Customers still know product brands.  They learn which resellers are reliable. Alibaba accounts for 58% of China's e-commerce sales with a similar, but larger, story to Amazon's.


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Created 2023 06


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