Electronic Commerce

The increasing use of the Internet for business purposes makes the study of Electronic Commerce an important part of the education of computer scientists and software engineers. This unit provides an overview of typical operations of electronic commerce, and the rich palette of technologies that contribute to effective electronic commerce solutions. The subjects to be discussed include:


The following table lists some useful books. The first two in the list are the ones that most closely cover the course content, and provide most of the supplementary reading material.

Abbrev. Authors Titles Publication details
Ince Ince Developing Distributed and E-Commerce Applications Addison Wesley, 1st edition, 2002, ISBN 0-201-73046-0
CLCD Chan, Lee, Dillon, Chang E-Commerce: Fundamentals and Applications John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 1st edition, 2001, ISBN 0-471-49303-1
DDS Deitel, Deitel, and Steinbuhler e-Business & e-Commerce for Managers Prentice Hall, 1st edition, 2001, ISBN 0-13-032364-0
ECK EckelThinking in Java Prentice Hall, 2nd Edition, 2000, ISBN 0-13-027363-5
TLKC Turban, Lee, King, Chung Electronic Commerce: A Managerial Perspective Prentice Hall, International Edition, 2000, ISBN 0-13-018866-2

Here are some more books I have seen, or that have been recommended by others. If you have recommendations of your own, please let me have them.

Assessed coursework



One and a half hours


The following table shows the proposed timetable for the term. The title of each lecture is a link to a PPT file that contains the handout for the lecture. It also gives supplementary reading.

Wk Date Lecture Reading
1 Mon 29 Apr Introduction Ince: Chapter1, Chapter 2 Sections 1 to 3.
CLDC: Chapter 1, Chapter 2.
DDS Appendix B.
1 Thu 2 May HTML Ince: Chapter 6, Sections 1 to 3.
CLDC: Chapter 3.
DDS Appendixes C and D.
For more information on JavaScript, try this tutorial.
2 Tue 7 May Markup languages Ince: Chapter 8.
CLDC: Chapter 9, Section 9.3.
DDS: Chapter 6.
HTML 4.01 Specification
Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0 (Second Edition)
WAP: WML Specification, Version 1.3
2 Thu 9 May Encryption Ince: Chapter 11, Section 4.
CLDC: Chapter 7, Sections 7.1 to 7.11.
RSA Laboratories' Frequently Asked Questions About Today's Cryptography, Version 4.1
3 Mon 13 May Authentication Ince: Chapter 11, Section 5.
CLDC: Chapter 7, Sections 7.12 to 7.16.
3 Thu 16 May Java (1) ECK: Chapters 1 and 2.
The Java tutorial
4 Mon 20 May Java (2) Ince: Chapter 6, Section 5; Chapter 11, Section 3.9; Chapter 7.
CLDC: Chapter 4, Sections 4.4 to 4.11.
4 Thu 23 May Payment systems CLDC: Chapter 10
TLKC: Chapter 8
DDS: Chapter 4
5 Mon 27 May Smartcards CLDC: Chapter 10, Section 10.7.
Smart Card Industry Association
OpenCard Framework
5 Thu 30 May Transaction processing Ince: Chapter 13.
7 Mon 10 Jun Design (1) To be provided.
7 Thu 13 Jun HTML forms To be provided.
8 Mon 17 Jun XSL transformations See Microsoft XML Core Services 4.0 SP1 to install MS tools for XML and XSL.
8 Thu 20 Jun Customer relationship management See CRM Forum and CRM Research Center for more information.
9 Mon 24 Jun Enterprise Java Beans
(Guest lecturer)
To be provided.
9 Thu 27 Jun Design (2) To be provided.
10 Mon 1 Jul Revision lecture with previous exam questionsNone

Exam questions

    1. What is electronic commerce?
    2. “Electronic commerce allows customers to operate many of a supplier’s business processes.” Illustrate this statement by contrasting the process of buying a book by post with buying one over the Web.
    3. How must a supplier’s business processes be modified to support electronic commerce?
    1. What are the main drawbacks for the mobile phone as an electronic commerce terminal?
    2. Describe the facilities of WML that promote the use of mobile phones for electronic commerce.
    3. A business wishes to allow its customers to buy goods using mobile phones or Web browsers. Describe with the help of a diagram how the use of XML and XSLT can help to provide a cost-effective solution.
    1. Distinguish encryption from authentication, and explain why encryption is important in electronic commerce.
    2. Explain the terms public key and private key and their uses in asymmetric encryption.
    3. What are the exchanges that take place between a Web browser and an application server when the browser requests a document using the secure HTTP protocol? Explain why symmetric encryption is preferred to asymmetric for the exchange of messages.
    1. Explain what is meant by saying that HTTP is a stateless protocol, and describe with the help of an example some of the difficulties that this presents to the designer of an electronic commerce application.
    2. Describe the features of HTML that make it suitable for presenting information and for soliciting user input in an e-commerce application.
    3. Explain what is meant by a cookie, and explain with an example how a server can use cookies to save state between interactions with a browser. What other means are available for saving state?
    1. Explain briefly what is meant by customer relationship management in the context of electronic commerce.
    2. Describe the four stages of a typical e-commerce maturity model and the principal information sources for each stage.
    3. For each stage in your answer to part b., describe the maturity improvement activities that are possible.
    1. What is meant by a Java applet? How is a Java applet invoked from an HTML page.
    2. What is meant by a Java servlet? How is a Java servlet invoked from an HTML page?
    3. Discuss the benefits of using Enterprise Java Beans to manage transactions between a servlet and a database.
    1. Explain what is meant by the three-tier architecture for electronic commerce, describe the functions of each of the tiers, and name typical technologies used in each tier. Illustrate your answer with a retail example.
    2. What is meant by a back-end system? Describe some of the problems posed by existing back-end systems for the development of new electronic commerce applications. What technologies can be used to overcome these problems?
    1. Explain the meanings of the terms profile and application in describing markup languages that follow the SGML standard.
    2. What advantages does XML offer over SGML for electronic commerce?
    3. Outline the purpose and structure of WML, and give an example of its use in electronic commerce.
    1. Explain the terms authentication and non-repudiation with reference to examples of electronic commerce
    2. Explain how a message digest is created from a message, and how this is converted into a digital signature.
    3. Describe the role of certificate authorities in authenticating e-commerce traders.
    1. Give examples of Java facilites for programming the client (Web browser) and the server in an electronic commerce environment.
    2. What is meant by saying that Java is an object-oriented language? Explain the use of inheritance with reference to a banking application in a server.

Last updated on Monday 24 June 2002.