The History of Online Shopping in Nutshell

The Electronic commerce or e-Commerce as is known today evolved as businesses (end to end process) started to shift from real time market to digital market. All of the business today as we see is done over the internet and anything which is not there is meant to be wiped off. Ecommerce, the online shopping system has brought down political and physical barriers giving everyone in the world an equal playing ground for their market, everyone can put their products on sale through the e-stores(website dedicated to selling of product, a virtual store).

Speaking about the last decade we saw a great market, rise over the internet, online shopping was introduced wherein firstly computer scientists got interested in then it came to general public and gradually became a substitute for the real market place.

Ecommerce, as is generally thought of, is not the birth child of “The Web” but it just got kick’ started by “The Web”.

Online shopping developed with B2B as well as with B2C since everybody is on internet, and development is going on each and every second for grabbing a better share of the market. Even as we write this article on Ecommerce with our exhaustive research!!! May just be not enough.

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Evolution of Online Shopping & Ecommerce

Seeing the advances from the day online shopping started taking its form and eventually being a part of our life, it’s really interesting to look at all the research that went into creating a whole new market or maybe acting as a great platform for future researchers to work on. Whatever the case maybe, today for buying a book we don’t drive downtown to some high shop but preferably check on the internet for best rates and for the reviews.

If you want to buy a property in Chicago then the smartest approach would be to visit all web pages of the dealers and just by looking at them you can get a fair idea of how much you want to spend on what kind of property, similarly for checking out the latest offers and updates at possibly anything. All you need is to check out the one which suits you best and order online, pay online and get the delivery.

Benefits of online shopping :

  • Best bargain as you can visit numerous shops/suppliers.
  • No national or international barriers*, making equal playing ground for players from developed as well as 3rd world nations.
  • Consumer at a demanding position and suppliers not in a very commanding one.
  • Enormous employment opportunities, as a whole new industry is defined.



Videotex was being researched since much earlier for supplying the end users with textual information. Much work was done in UK on videotext, it was a two way message service and developed basically for information sending where “many companies” were interested in, but on the backdrop of all that Michael Aldrich in 1979 gave the “concept of teleshopping” (today online shopping) which revolutionized the way businesses happen.

Same happened in the US around that year with services like The Source and CompuServe.

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Minitel succeeded Videotext as online service making online purchases, check share market, search telephone directory and could even chat. This is one of the most successful services before WWW using telephone lines, It was launched in France successfully but in UK as well but to less success.

instantShift - History of Online Shopping


With Swreg (offshoot of CompuServe) the community of software developers and shareware authors got an online market where they could sell their product using “Merchant account”. Thus online shopping started for then software industry people.

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Tim Berners-Lee wrote the WorldWideWeb and gave the first browser to view the web which changed most of things; a whole new revolution started, which till date is ON.

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Revolutionary book by J.H. Snider and Terra Ziporyn namely; Future Shop: How New Technologies Will Change the Way We Shop and What We Buy. St. Martin’s Press.


Netscape released Navigator browser, later introduced Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption for secure transaction. Pizza Hut started online ordering on their webpage, cars, bikes and adult content as well started selling on the internet.

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1995 started selling each and everything online, and along with that Jeff Bezos starts first commercial-free 24 hour, internet-only radio stations. Then Radio HK and NetRadio start broadcasting. Companies like Dell and Cisco started using internet in all their transactions. Online auction started by eBay.

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United States started selling Electronic postal stamps online wherein they could be purchased and downloaded for print.


Acquisition of by eCompanies in US $7.5 million. Napster the peer-to-peer file sharing software launches. Home decorative items started selling on ATG Stores.


The dot-com bust as we know it today wasn’t something that happened in a day, over speculation for a period of time (approx. 1995-2000) where just the prefix “e-” or “.com” in names could make stock prices rise at great rates. This saw a great many companies rise and fall.

Many entrepreneurs came up with brilliant plans and most got pretty “generous” venture capitalists, most of these firms started working on the principle “expand the market and later profits will cover all present debts and losses.” This speculation was constantly taking the market upwards with NASDAQ at a peak of 5132.52 points on March 10, 2000. After this the market goes down and with them the over speculating ones were just wiped off the market.

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PayPal the company which offered an alternative (through internet) to cash or check payment was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion. CSN Stores and NetShops were founded with the concept of domain specific commodity and sprung with many online stores, going for one item on each website.

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Online shopping matures showing to the world their confidence posted first yearly profit and thus again making presence on the stock market.


Acquisition of by R.H. Donnelley for $345 million, making way for bigger players in technology domain.


Tremendous growth in US in Ecommerce with sales figures touching $204 billion, a decent 17% rise from the previous year.


Online Retailer – has an estimated turnover on a daily basis is over US $2.5 trillion with growth rate of 14% annually. Ebay having sales of US $1.89 billion, these numbers alone speak.

A Nutshell Summery of Online Shopping

The history of ecommerce would rightly be back-tracked by the time people felt the need to send “interactive content” to be displayed on television and Videotex came into being. Research was going on from the early 1960 and more corporations got interested in sending information and thus it matured while Michael Aldrich of Redifon Computers Ltd gave the concept of teleshopping and did good business in UK.

Online service of videotext, Minitel was launched in France in 1982 and was accessed using telephone lines, similar model failed in UK. It was a real success till WorldWideWeb.

The researchers who were working on Videotex in US with services like “The Source” and “CompuServe” in 1979 (contemporary of UK based research: BBC with Prestel, BritisTelecom with Viewdata, ITV with ORACLE) got interested in creating a solution for customer-targeted payment processing whose target audience would be the software developers and shareware authors, they created Swreg in 1987 in US, thus enabling the first Online market for the developers community.

In 1990 Tim Berners-Lee a British scientist working at CERN laboratory wrote the first web browser WWW which then changed most research processes and ways of businesses seeing a whole new market to evolve (rather a whole new world “The web world”).

People saw new technologies evolving with new market and then around 1994 a company called Netscape released a browser, enabling anyone to type a name in the Navigator browser and visit a webpage (which might look dumb right now, but was a real exploration making them the real champs of the market and even challenging market leaders).Soaring stock prices, Pizza Hut taking orders online and a wide variety of products being available online.

Then transactions and business started happening over the web urging every company to have a “.com”. To address security issues Netscape 1.0 introduced SSL encryption, for secure transaction. Online retailer “” launched selling each and everything online. “E-bay” the online auction house founded by computer programmer Pierre Omidyar. [Yipee everything on internet]

United States postal service goes online, Acquisitions of majors overtaking smaller ones for technological advancement; the whole environment was so “technologically charged”. This went on till the year 2000 when finally the Bubble (The Dot Com bubble) burst with record high in stock prices.

When money was involved in doing business over the internet “PayPal” was launched and practically has share of 70% till date, it provides facility for online payment.

Aggressiveness in the market especially in the online shopping market giving way to new tricks like giving out Coupons for customer loyalty and in an attempt to keeps clients reverting back major benefits are being offered with decent discounts to promote online shopping.

instantShift - Nutshell History of Online Shopping

Find Something Missing?

While writing this article, it’s always a possibility that we missed some other historical facts about online shopping. Feel free to share it with us.

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  1. Interesting information. Beautifully executed.

  2. Appreciate your efforts in putting this together. I have never heard of 1982 incident

  3. Suprb article..Very informative…

    • dear
      i am doing my PhD in E-commence in general and online shopping in spacial, so clear i need history of e-commerce and online shopping, my i have any chance to have guide line from your side

  4. Nice summary, but I thought the article could have ‘flowed’ a bit better. Good effort though.

  5. Very informative. Thanks for sharing

  6. Very prolific and unique knowledge has been provided, Thanks for sharing the awesome and amazing knowledge.

  7. This is a really great article that showcases the history of eCommerce.

  8. Interesting topic.

  9. Great informative post-simple and easy to follow.

  10. This is such a nice history of online shopping.I have improved my knowledge so much from this post about online shopping.I do appreciate you for this information and You have just done a great job for us.

  11. Very nice and simple. I was just looking for something like this

    Thank you for sharing

  12. Today Online shopping store have become popular recent years. In the current scenario, the common consumer, who is aware, prefer to focus on home purchases, rather than out in a crowded market or shopping malls. but how and when online shopping start and what is his process graph its interesting to read about online shopping for that you provide great detail.

    Dale Morkel

  13. What are your favorite online shopping sites?
    I would like to do some online clothing shopping. Any site ideas?

  14. The recent phenomenon of online shopping websites going viral has helped boost online sales.

  15. I am actually one of the people who grows up the computer

  16. How great we are.. I can’t believe the days without computer !!


  17. this is a very interessting peice of text but really – who gives a little rats ass bogtrotter. +

  18. Outstanding article on hx of Web commerce. Particularly enjoyed the timeline and summary. Well done. (new visitor, but will be back!)

  19. I like the way you related the history of online shopping, but you forgot to say a bit about the disadvatages and dangers of online shopping. You can find them in this article

  20. Excellent stuff from you, man I’ve read your things before and you are just too awesome. I adore what you have got right here. You make it entertaining and you still manage to keep it smart. This is truly a great blog thanks for sharing…

  21. Very informative article tracing the history of online e-commerce. Excellent research work.

  22. nice topic but i hope i can learn the growth rate of the present sales compared to the traditional selling practice in recent year. i hope theres a study about the number of people engaging online shopping.

  23. Very interesting – learned a few things myself!

  24. Great content with the History timeline. Seems like a one-page history of the online shopping.

  25. Thanks for the great articles and tips you presented in you blog. It is packed with useful information and makes a lot of sense. I am looking forward to coming back again to check your latest post.

  26. Nice Article.. they traced all the info of E commerce when Started or who come first.

  27. very historical valuable information. great attempt.

  28. pls put the current history.

  29. Thank you so much for the great report on the history of On-line shopping. It has become such a norm now a days that it is easy to forget that it is a relatively new venture and has really only been overly popular in the last decade.

    Interesting to note that the Pizza Hut was the first company to offer On-line ordering – A credit to their innovative development.

    It is easy to get good value and have wide choice with on line shopping – I ove it

  30. Really loved this article about online shopping I found it really informative and a wake up reality in how far we have come in a few short decades. On-line shopping is now a multi billion dollar business which we all love to dabble in

    But I agree with the comments of Tony on Feb 16th. Buyers need to be beware and only purchase from reputable websites

  31. i agree with the comments made by Tony about the dangers of internet shopping. It can be very dangerous and risky.

    I purchased some coaching and built a website which has been affected because the company Noble Education were scammers and closed down by the FTC. Refer to the article by the FTC

  32. Interesting article; a shame it is incorrect — or at the very least incomplete.

    Since I was at CompuServe in 1979 and shopping was one of the products I created. CompuServe was the first company to offer online shopping, beginning first users allowed to see personal items online and eventually encompassing commercial shopping services by 1982.

    No one was doing any sort of online Internet shopping (except early tv/cable shopping akin to mail order) before 1979. By 1981, CompuServe also began offering electronic downloadable shopping of software apps, games, etc. For a time, even users were allowed to sell electronic items, until significant copyright violations by users forced us to remove that option.

  33. Online shopping has evolved but has it been great for the retailer I mean really, look at the onlne scams involved in this evolution of online stores, but onlne shopping will continue to strive and the eveloution of ecommerce will just keep going.

  34. Poor English and grammar, but other than that, good information. I realize that English is not everyone’s first language, but I would hope a professional writer would have an editor. I will still be using this information for a project regardless. Thanks for writing it up.

  35. Amazing topic.

  36. Very interesting article through 4 decades of innovation, just wondering where is Netscape now. That is my first internet browser.

  37. The writing in this article is terrible.

  38. i am going to do PhD in eCommerce. So, this article is very helpful to me. I found many unknown things like who started WWW, what is the first browser navigator and so many. I liked your article the way you explained and taken this as inspiration started new online shopping site. Visit our website picknHook

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