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Department of Computer Science and Technology



Course pages 2023–24


Principal lecturer: Stewart McTavish
Taken by: Part II CST
Term: Lent
Hours: 8 (2 examples classes may be held if no supervisions)
Format: In-person lectures
Suggested hours of supervisions: 2
Prerequisites: Business Studies, Cybersecurity, Economics, Law and Ethics
Exam: Paper 8 Question 5
Past exam questions, Moodle, timetable


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. and 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.