The early days of Internet commerce offered many promises, none of them brighter than the chance for people to set up Web sites and sell inexpensive digital goods like songs, articles and photos.
But most of the pioneering companies that devised transaction systems for low-cost online purchases faded away, dogged not only by the giveaway ethos of the Internet but also by cumbersome technology and fees that ate up the profit on items that often sold for less than a dollar.
Times have changed, though, and electronic micropayment systems may yet be born again.
In the past few months, several new companies dedicated to processing small cash transactions on the Web have introduced commercial services, and some older companies, including one inspired by Apple’s huge success in selling 99-cent songs at its online music service, have modified their offerings to accommodate some lower-priced sales.
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