CommerceNet said it has completed a demonstration of multivendor electronic data interchange on the Internet and entered the second phase of an ambitious initiative to promote business-to-business commerce over the World Wide Web.

CommerceNet, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based consortium of more than 200 corporations including major banks, said five EDI vendors in its program exchanged digitally signed data for the first time during the week of Jan. 20.

Those organizations were AT&T Corp., Digital Equipment Corp., Premenos Corp., Sterling Commerce, and Actra Business Systems, which is a joint venture of Netscape Communications Corp. and GE Information Services.

Many of the digital certificates were provided by Verisign Inc.'s Get- rEDI Digital ID Center.

"The initiative takes us beyond theorizing to actual implementation," said CommerceNet chairman Jay M. Tenenbaum, announcing the breakthrough at the recent RSA Data Security Conference in San Francisco. "Migrating successful technologies such as EDI to more cost-effective solutions is a win-win-strategy."

Phase 1 involved the use of electronic mail protocols. The current Phase 2 will see additional data encryption methods and digital signatures. In Phase 3, the participants will test receipt requests and signed and unsigned receipts.

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