Highlights from the history of ecommerce

Recently, I took a look at some articles on the history of ecommerce. My knowledge of the history of ecommerce comes from my own experience, as I’ve lived through the rise of ecommerce and can remember Amazon when it was just an online book store, as well as books such as Walter Issaacson’s The Innovators, Brad Stone’s The Everything Store,  and Duncan Clark’s The House that Jack Built

Overall, I was unimpressed with most of the search results I came across. Many included inaccuracies, most had numerous typos, and much was omitted. I’ve created separate posts about some of the better sources. Here’s a few quick highlights from other posts:

From the post Internet Business: A History at History Cooperative:

The man credited with inventing the earliest form of ecommerce is Michael Aldrich. He was an English inventor and entrepreneur. According to the stories, he was one day out with his wife and he was complaining about having to make a long trip to the supermarket. He was then struck with a sudden wave of inspiration. He had the idea of hooking up television to your supermarket to get them to deliver your groceries. In 1979, he connected his television to a computer that was designed for processing transactions. He then coined the term “teleshopping”, which is the earliest form of ecommerce that we know today.

In 20 Years of eCommerce: The History in a Timeline:

In 1994 the very first online sale went through… the purchase of a Sting CD. This monumental event was made possible by Netscape, a company that introduced SSL encryption to make online purchases secure.

1995 just so happened to see the birth of the giant that is now Amazon. Jeff Bezos clearly spotted a gap in the market and therefore launched Amazon. Amazon first started off as an online book store and still to this day sells books but now also sells almost everything you can think of. Today Amazon has an annual revenue of $76bn.

Hold on a moment we haven’t yet finished with 1995. Another giant was born in this defining year… eBay!

The post The History of eCommerce at StatementAgency included this about the first ecommerce purchase (though we’ve read about cannabis as the first ecommerce sale).

The ‘90s saw the first secure online purchases – one of which was a large pizza from Pizza Hut, and another was a Sting CD, sold by US retailer, NetMarket on 11 August 1994. The eCommerce industry quickly grew from this point onward. Simply look forward three years to the end of 1997 and Dell became the first company to announce a single day sales record of $1 million online.

From the post A History of E-Commerce at Concordia University, St. Paul Online

CompuServe introduced the Electronic Mall in 1984, which allowed users to purchase from more than 100 online retailers. The service wasn’t a big success, but it was one of the first examples of online retail. Then in 1991, the National Science Foundation lifted its ban on commercial internet use. This historic move made e-commerce possible.


Andrew @ EcomLoop
Are you looking to start or grow a standalone ecommerce shop? I help independent businesses achieve success on the Shopify and WooCommerce platforms. As the owner of multiple ecommerce businesses, I've had the opportunity to get experience with nearly every aspect of the ecommerce industry. I started EcomLoop to help other quality independent businesses using my knowledge and experience. To stay on top of new ecommerce developments, I publish The EcomLoop Weekly Loop, a blog and email newsletter with original thoughts and curated links to help independent businesses improve their businesses.