Firefly Network Inc. has endorsed First Virtual Holdings Inc.'s on-line payment method.
Firefly has enrolled 2.7 million members in its Internet intelligent- agent system, which brings people with common interests together.
The company will allow First Virtual's VirtualPINs to be used in the registration process.
VirtualPIN, a code that replaces a credit card number, will be stored in what Firefly calls MyWallet and can be used to pay for merchandise on-line. San Diego, Calif.-based First Virtual is the only company thus far to take advantage of the MyWallet feature.
In turn, First Virtual's customers will be able to obtain a Firefly Passport-essentially the system's entry pass-when signing up for a VirtualPIN.
"Ultimately, we could have a number of commerce solutions within MyWallet, the first one being First Virtual's VirtualPIN," said Ted Kamionek, director of communications at Firefly in Cambridge, Mass.
"The complements of the two server-based technologies give power to consumers and merchants," said Lee Stein, First Virtual's chairman and chief executive.
With VirtualPIN inside the Firefly wallet, consumers don't have to worry about loading any more software, said Mr. Stein. The consumer signs up for the system by giving a name or alias, address, age, taste preferences, and gender.
Firefly users reveal their likes and dislikes for such things as films, music, books, or software. The system pairs like-minded people or suggests what others with similar tastes have found interesting.
Firefly, a commercial outgrowth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, also lets users put up their own home pages without charge, write reviews, participate in chats, and link to other Firefly- enabled Web sites.
The privately held company said it has designed the system to let on- line businesses serve their customers on a highly individualized basis without violating confidentiality. Customers that have bought its software are Barnes & Noble, America Online's Greenhouse Network, Yahoo, Ziff-Davis, and Reuters New Media.
Firefly recently joined with Netscape Communications Corp., Microsoft Corp., Verisign Inc., and Oracle Corp. in backing the Open Profiling Standard to protect the exchange of information between people and Web sites.
Advertisers on Firefly's own www.firefly.com site, launched in January 1996, include MCI Communications, AT&T Corp., Honda Motor Co., MasterCard International, and Columbia Records.
They generally pay $100 for every 1,000 people who click on their ads at the site.