ECML -- Electronic Commerce Modeling Language

Sally Khudairi (
Fri, 18 Jun 1999 07:49:32 -0400

OR 152-05 New Standard for Online Payments

Several e-commerce players, including America Online, American
Express, Compaq, CyberCash, IBM, Master Card, Microsoft, SETCo, Sun,
Transactor Networks, Trintech and Visa, have banded together to
provide a new universal format - an Electronic Commerce Modeling
Language (ECML) - that promises to make e-commerce transactions with
digital wallets easier.

The ECML format for electronic wallets and online merchants utilizes
a set of uniform field names that streamlines the process by which
merchants collect electronic data for shipping, billing and payment.

Currently, there is no standard for exchanging information between a
consumer and a merchant about which credit card, billing address or
shipping address consumers wish to use in any given online
transaction. Typically, consumers are asked to fill out considerable
information before a purchase - especially the first purchase - and
this can take several minutes. Studies have shown that 27% of online
buyers abandon orders before checkout because of the hassle of
filling out forms.

One possible way to overcome this problem is to use digital wallets,
an application or service that assists consumers in conducting
online transactions by allowing them to store billing, shipping, and
payment information and to use this information to automatically
complete a merchant's check-out page. But the proliferation of
digital wallets has been hampered by a lack of standards. ECML is
expected to provide a set of guidelines for online merchants that
will enable digital wallets from multiple vendors to automate the
exchange of information between users and merchants.

ECML is available for implementation now by vendors and merchants,
and the various organizations that created the standard are said to
be incorporating it into their wallet and merchant software as well
as into their commerce-related web pages.

ECML has already won endorsements from several key online vendors
including Dell,,,, 1-800-
Batteries, Omaha Steaks and It is to be submitted
to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the WorldWide Web
Consortium's P3P committee and ultimately handed over to an
international standards body.