The number of financial electronic data interchange, or EDI, transactions increased 22.5% in 1999, to 79 million, according to the National Automated Clearing House Association.

The growth came even as other communications standards have begun taking hold. For example, eXtensible Markup Language, or XML, which was designed expressly for the Internet, has been dubbed the "new EDI" by many technologists. EDI is a standard for exchanging purchase-related documents, such as orders or invoices. It was designed more than 20 years ago to handle electronic transactions between mainframe computers, but some companies have moved payment operations to the Internet.

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