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January 28, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

UK internet micro and macro payments start-up has landed its first high profile merchant in the shape of online information provider The Dialog Corp Plc. Dialog is the company formed from MAID Plc’s reverse takeover of US publishing giant Knight Ridder Inc’s Knight-Ridder Information Inc (CI No 3,260). It will shortly be launching an as yet undisclosed new product, and has signed a non-exclusive deal with to use Ice’s VPS virtual payments system. VPS is a forms-based credit card payment system written using Microsoft Corp’s ActiveServer pages and the SQL Server database. It runs on Windows NT, but will interface with almost any back-end system and commercial web browser. Basically, Ice acts as a third-party payments agent. It has an agreement with the Royal Bank of Scotland to hook into the bank’s credit card verification system, and enables users to log their credit card details with Ice only once on a secure server using 40-bit Secure Sockets Layer encryption. This can be done either over the internet or by fax if the user prefers. The system then authenticates the user’s credit-worthiness, and takes a float of around $15 from the credit card, to enable micro purchases to be made without accessing the credit card each time. When a purchase of more than $15 is made, the total price of that purchase is debited from the card and the float is renewed. The user gets a user id and password, and nominates additional identity checks in the same way as for telephone banking. Ice will also vet the merchant company to ensure its offerings are genuine. Ice says its system is one of the only systems currently available which performs instant on-line verification to both the user and the merchant, where others use email for confirmation. Users can set up accounts in multiple currencies, so that payments are made in the currency the credit card is settled in. Merchants can have VPS fully branded and customized if required. Ice will also host the service and design and build a company’s web site. was set up three years ago to provide a service called Animails, an animated email-based greeting card service. It was while searching for a system to cater for micropayments for the Animails, that it says it found a gap in the market, and decided to write its own system. Ice initially aimed to sell the Animails through the Microsoft Network, and it was through MSN that it made contact with MAID. The eleven-person company is now talking to major UK and US corporates, and is also seeking venture funding to enable it to futher develop VPS.

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