December 12, 1996 6:30 PM ET

Fewer than 1% of sites can deliver secure transactions
By Maria Seminerio

  A survey of more than 648,000 commercial World Wide Web sites, conducted last month by O'Reilly & Associates Inc. and released today at Internet World, revealed that just 3,200--fewer than 1 percent--were equipped to provide fully encrypted online transactions.

O'Reilly's "State of Web Commerce" report illustrates how few Web sites are moving toward digital certificate and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) technologies for hosting secure business transactions. Until these tools become more widely used, the commercial potential of the Web will remain limited, said Dick Peck, VP of business development at O'Reilly, in Sebastopol, Calif.

Of the sites surveyed, 10 percent offered SSL and 5 percent delivered digital certificates, but just under 1 percent made both technologies available for online transactions, according to the report.

"Consumer confidence is commonly identified as a major stumbling block to selling via the Web," Peck said. "Our results suggest that huge opportunities still exist in this new channel, both for businesses addressing their customers' concerns by offering secure transactions and for companies supplying the technology to help businesses sell online."

The report also predicts that the providers of the two currently dominant Web security technologies, Netscape Communications Corp. with SSL and VeriSign Inc. with digital certificates, will face increasing competition as the market matures.

"The number of sites making effective use of encrypted transactions on the Internet is accelerating, but is still small enough to call them all and find out what it would take to have them switch vendors," said Mike Prettejohn, director of Netcraft Ltd., a network and security consulting firm in Bath, England.

O'Reilly teamed with Netcraft to compile data for the report, deploying Netcraft's proprietary Web Query technology to send HTTP requests to the survey sites and retrieve certificates and server signatures using SSL 2.0 clients. These were decrypted and analyzed to pull together the report's findings, O'Reilly and Netcraft officials said.

The full report is available on CD-ROM for $695 at the Internet World show in New York, and $895 thereafter, by contacting O'Reilly at www.ora.com/research/ or at (800) 998-9938.

Netcraft can be reached at www.netcraft.co.uk/.

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