This is the section of the report where I am supposed to summarize everything that went before. I have presented to you the information I learned about the credit card industry, and have tried to link the pieces I found together in some way that makes sense. Also, I described in some detail, the three major credit card payment schemes for the Internet: First Virtual's, CyberCash's, and MasterCard's and Visa's SET protocol. Okay, enough summary.
You have read my report and have taken from it what you will. I feel I will have done my job if the next time you buy something with your credit card, you stop and think about what's happening. Hopefully the next time your are on the Internet and you come across First Virtual or CyberCash you will be able to feel that you understand how they work. And, I hope you leave with questions, that you found the information interesting enough to want to learn more. Go for it.
I have tried to present the material in this report in an objective matter. Now I want to be totally subjective and give you my opinion. First, I would feel totally safe using my credit card with any of these methods. They all provide a secure means to pay for what you purchase online. The thing that is holding back commerce on the Internet at the moment is not how safe is it, but whether there is anything worth buying. That's a subject for another paper.
After looking at these three methods, I have to say that I like what First Virtual has done the best. Where both CyberCash and SET have developed high tech solutions using the latest cryptology techniques, First Virtual relied on the tried and true. They built their system on long standing, stable protocols used on the Internet; SMTP mail and MIME. Their system is so simple, it's almost elegant.
I like what First Virtual has done for an even more important reason. They have opened up the world of Internet commerce to virtually everyone. Anyone can use First Virtual to sell their wares on the Internet. They do not screen merchants. With CyberCash and SET, a person who wants to sell on the Internet must have a relationship with an acquiring bank or ISO. If you are small or just starting out, this relationship can sometimes be impossible to establish. With First Virtual, I can put the pictures I shoot in my spare time on the web and see if any sell. Without them, I wouldn't even think of trying it. First Virtual's policy allowing anyone be a seller appeals to the entrepreneur in me.