1. Digital is the common factor
As human beings, we count in groups of 10 (9 numbers and 0), perhaps because our species has 10 fingers, but computers count in binary numbers (1 and 0). Since the earliest days of computing, it had been known that a computer can work with any number in this binary notation, however large, so long as the computer had sufficient processing power and memory. The main value of early computers was to handle repeated monotonous calculations but digital processing was not limited to performing calculations. The next step was the realization that any fact, sound or image could be represented digitally.
2. The transforming power of technology
Computers are brilliant at handling complicated arrangements of “0″s and “1″s at incredible speed. With their processing power having doubled every couple of years since the 1960s it was possible for computers to cope with the technical challenge of handling digital records of knowledge and facts. Meanwhile communication speeds have been transformed in a parallel way with fibre optics now carrying digital packets at the speed of light.
3. Everything can be represented and communicated digitally
Books and journals can be accessed on line. Music can be reproduced perfectly, with better sound quality than in a concert hall. Sound libraries and image banks are just small corners of the material that can be stored and searched for on line. With modern technology there is no area of life that cannot be represented and instantly communicated globally.
4. Online commerce has grown in step with the technology
Online commerce was the inevitable consequence of this extraordinary growth of processing power and communication speed. Since the early twentieth century it had been possible to send messages and order supplies by telegram, but secure payment was a problem and it was obviously impossible to supply goods and services over the telegraph lines. One hundred years later it is easy to buy and receive digital information services, and to shop for physical goods to be supplied from anywhere in the world.
5. Digital imaging is not limited to facts
Every area of life can be recorded digitally, and there are many digital products that are not copied from a physical source and might not ever exist apart from their digital forms. For example, user generated content often provides valuable material that did not exist outside some form of a social network, and virtual worlds provide electronic places where real world businesses can trade with each other and well to the avatar inhabitants of cyberspace.
6. Everything can be traded online
Digital representation of any fact, business or art can therefore be sold or licensed to a worldwide audience. Digital products are easy to deliver and furthermore the digital shop window is now used as a portal to trade physical products and services from far away. Buyers of travel services can take a virtual tour of possible destinations and then search the global marketplace and order holiday after comparing prices and facilities. In many cases the convenience and choice in the online marketplace is much better than in real world commerce and market forces are bringing down the cost of delivery of physical goods at the same time.
7. The possibilities of online commerce are literally boundless
Since everything that can be imagined can be represented and traded digitally the restrictions on online commerce are those imposed by local laws or policies. Otherwise, the only limits to cyber-trade are the creativity of the online trader. The benefits of online commerce are so great that governments and societies will certainly learn to benefit from the online marketplace, which for the imaginative online trader offers endless possibilities.