Department of Computer Science and Technology

Course pages 2018–19


Principal lecturers: Jack Lang, Stewart McTavish
Taken by: Part II CST 50%, Part II CST 75%
Past exam questions

No. of lectures: 8
Suggested hours of supervision: 2 (example classes if requested)
Prerequisite courses: Business Studies, Security, Economics, Law & Ethics


This course aims to give students an outline of the issues involved in setting up an e-commerce site.


  • The history of electronic commerce. Mail order; EDI; web-based businesses, credit card processing, PKI, identity and other hot topics.

  • Network economics. Real and virtual networks, supply-side versus demand-side scale economies, Metcalfe’s law, the dominant firm model, the differentiated pricing model Data Protection Act, Distance Selling regulations, business models.

  • Web site design. Stock and price control; domain names, common mistakes, dynamic pages, transition diagrams, content management systems, multiple targets.

  • Web site implementation. Merchant systems, system design and sizing, enterprise integration, payment mechanisms, CRM and help desks. Personalisation and internationalisation.

  • The law and electronic commerce. Contract and tort; copyright; binding actions; liabilities and remedies. Legislation: RIP; Data Protection; EU Directives on Distance Selling and Electronic Signatures.

  • Putting it into practice. Search engine interaction, driving and analysing traffic; dynamic pricing models. Integration with traditional media. Logs and audit, data mining modelling the user. collaborative filtering and affinity marketing brand value, building communities, typical behaviour.

  • Finance. How business plans are put together. Funding Internet ventures; the recent hysteria; maximising shareholder value. Future trends.

  • UK and International Internet Regulation. Data Protection Act and US Privacy laws; HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, Security Breach Disclosure, RIP Act 2000, Electronic Communications Act 2000, Patriot Act, Privacy Directives, data retention; specific issues: deep linking, Inlining, brand misuse, phishing.


At the end of the course students should know how to apply their computer science skills to the conduct of e-commerce with some understanding of the legal, security, commercial, economic, marketing and infrastructure issues involved.

Recommended reading

Shapiro, C. & Varian, H. (1998). Information rules. Harvard Business School Press.

Additional reading:

Standage, T. (1999). The Victorian Internet. Phoenix Press. Klemperer, P. (2004). Auctions: theory and practice. Princeton Paperback ISBN 0-691-11925-2.