Is virtual money ready for prime time?

By EW Staff
November 12, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

Brother, can you spare an e-dime? With online commerce in full swing and the holidays approaching, Web merchants are once again developing new ways to pay.

For instance, eCash Technologies ( hopes to introduce, well, eCash in the U.S. early next year (it’s now used by a few European banks). The lure: no credit card needed. ”Consumer gets eCash from bank, consumer spends eCash at merchant site, merchant collects money from bank,” explains David Watson, the company’s manager for strategic sales.

Even more promising are ”payment aggregators,” according to Jupiter Communications analyst Robert Sterling. Companies like iPin and Trivnet have set up systems that automatically charge online purchases to shoppers’ Internet accounts—itemized on monthly bills.

Multisite digital wallets have also arrived. Earlier this year, CyberCash ( introduced a no-download-required wallet that remembers credit card and address info so you don’t have to reenter your data at every online store. ”Not only is it for people who can’t spell, it’s a lot quicker and easier,” say CyberCash’s executive vice president Nancy Goldberg.

Further paving the way for easier online shopping is the development of a new wallet standard called electronic commerce modeling language (ECML), but nothing will be a sure thing until Web shoppers vote with their e-pocketbooks. Hey, why hasn’t anyone developed one of those?