CommerceNet, a consortium of banks and businesses that promotes on-line commerce, has successfully completed a test of Internet-based electronic data interchange.

It is encouraging technology vendors to use the test results to attract new EDI users.

Electronic data interchange, the automated exchange of business documents in standard computer formats, has long been viewed as a way for corporations to streamline their trade operations.

But only about 150,000 of the estimated eight million U.S. businesses conduct EDI today, because the systems and networks it requires have been expensive to support. CommerceNet's efforts are aimed at reducing such costs and at improving interoperability between EDI products from different vendors.

The vendors that participated in the CommerceNet test are: Digital Equipment Corp., Premenos Corp., Sterling Commerce, and Actra Business Systems, a joint venture of Netscape Communications Corp. and GE Information Systems Inc.

CommerceNet is not alone in promoting business-to-business communication using the Internet.

American Express Co. has begun testing a technical standard, called Open Buying on the Internet, or OBI, that it hopes will open the sprawling computer network to more businesses.

Until recently, CommerceNet "was the only effort in this direction," said Blane Irwin, director at Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass. "My money is more on OBI at this point," he added.

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