CommerceNet, the two-year-old consortium dedicated to the growth of electronic commerce, has undergone a renaissance.
Back in March, the organization found itself homeless and without leadership. Its staff had dwindled to four, and its founding executive director, Cathy Medich, had left to join Verifone Inc.
Verifone - which had acquired the company that organized CommerceNet - found that it no longer had space for the consortium in its Menlo Park, Calif., offices.
In the intervening months, CommerceNet has managed to pick itself up, brush itself off, and reestablish itself in new offices in Palo Alto.
"In the last six to eight months, we have been very busy reengineering CommerceNet," said Asim Abdullah, 33, the new executive director. "We have basically started up a whole new company."
Thanks to brisk staff recruitment, 28 people now work for CommerceNet, and 200 banks and other organizations are signed up as dues-paying members.
Mr. Abdullah, who has worked at CommerceNet for 11 months and who previously worked for International Business Machines Corp., was tapped to replace Ms. Medich last spring.
Back in June - when 150 companies were members - the consortium got a boost when Jay M. Tenenbaum, CommerceNet's founder, left his post at Verifone to come on board as full-time chairman.
Despite the growing pains, CommerceNet has been active in a variety of electronic commerce projects, including the Joint Electronic Payments Initiative (which is working to promote a standard payment negotiation protocol for the Internet) and ETrust (a validation system for privacy and security on-line).
Another initiative, Eco-system, aims to build a kind of universal platform for Web commerce.
"The problem we are starting to see is a proliferation of platforms ranging from payment systems to merchant servers to search engines and so on. And every time you go to build an application or a solution, you're either tied to a specific vendor or you have to custom-put these pieces together," Mr. Abdullah said.
"We are trying to create an interoperable layer, an architecture which we are calling the Eco-system, which will encapsulate all these various pieces and then allow a set of electronic commerce solutions to be developed to a common interface."
Just as electronic commerce has matured and progressed since 1994, so has CommerceNet found its role evolving. Instead of being concerned primarily with "early adopter" types of Web applications, CommerceNet in its latest strategic push is aiming squarely toward mass deployment of electronic commerce.
"Two years ago, we were focused on bringing people together in collaborative forums," Mr. Abdullah said. "That's not needed as much. What's needed now is more leadership to drive the industry around some key projects."