Credit online can have two meanings. It refers to services that provide online credit verification on companies that conduct business over the Internet. It can also refer to online credit card applications and obtaining credit reports for individuals.
With the enormous growth of the Internet and electronic commerce, online credit, or trust, has become an increasingly important issue. Although the Internet offers tremendous new opportunities in business and other areas, there are also great uncertainties and risks in the online world. Does an online store have a good credit history? Can you trust the store to send you the product you are ordering and paying for in advance? Those questions center on the notion of credit and what that means.
Credit can be defined as a belief and a confidence in the reliability of the other party. We can check the credit of an individual or a company by assessing the party’s past behavior. We can also try to infer a party’s credit by examining its ability to meet its obligations. For example, we can look at a company’s financial information—such as assets, earnings, and stock price—to have a better understanding of the company’s trustworthiness.
In the world of the Internet, consumers often deal with a distant party that can be identified only by an Internet address. An online business must have a good reputation in order for consumers to have confidence in doing business with the company. Credit between long-term business partners can develop through past business experiences. Among strangers, however, trust is much more difficult to build because strangers lack known past histories. Given these factors, the temptation for someone to cheat over the Internet could outweigh the incentive to cooperate. Two types of credit systems can help consumers overcome these concerns.
Companies such as eBay and the BBB that provide online credit services utilize the Internet and World Wide Web to collect information on online merchants and make the credit information available on the Internet. For example, customers at eBay can easily submit comments on a particular seller online. eBay then collects the comments electronically, saves them in a database, and makes the compiled information available to all potential buyers. In order to get a BBB seal of endorsement, companies can go to the BBB web site and apply electronically. Consumers can also use the Internet to file complaints with the BBB if they are unsatisfied with the service of a company.
For these online credit systems, the Internet is the interface through which consumers can access credit information and submit comments or complaints. The information is written in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) so that web browsers can display the multimedia information consistently. Companies that provide credit information use web servers, database management systems, and web software programs written in Java, C, VBScript, or other programming languages to build such applications.