Editor’s Introduction 28(1)

Vladimir Zwass
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 28, Number 1, 2024, pp. 1-2.

The blockchain and the cryptographic tokens it supports burst on the scene a decade and a half ago, having been devised by their anonymous author(s) who brilliantly integrated several decades of work in cryptography and in the broader computer science. These digital constructs have since animated a vigorous business and research activity. There is every expectation that the role of these entities will be increasing apace. And the research conducted within the e-commerce community, as well as in other fields, is necessary to support the developments and to undergird the still needed effective regulatory framework.

The fungible tokens, more commonly known as cryptocurrencies, have as a whole established themselves as an alternative investment asset, a transactional medium of a limited scope, a means of speculation, a way of law and tax avoidance, and a fulfillment of libertarian ideals—to name only the most prominent uses. The nonfungible tokens, known as NFTs, are an even more recent phenomenon as certificates deploying blockchain to assert the current ownership of a variety of assets, from real estate to artistic creations.

The infrastructure for both types of cryptographic tokens is blockchain, a decentralized and distributed chain of unalterable digital records relying on a peer-to-peer protocol to reflect the transactions affecting the ownership of various assets. The incentivization of the independent participants in blockchain is one of the principal differences in the various schemes of the open (trustless) blockchains. The research has been directed largely at the efficiency of the protocols (in some cases highly profligate in energy use), the design of the token exchanges, the additional roles for the tokens, security, and trust. The specialization of blockchain use in supply-chain management, financial services, crowdsourcing, and the application to a great variety of other uses is receiving significant attention.

This issue of IJEC is opened by an article showing how blockchain may be used to organize a market for data trade, a nodal issue in the effective and efficient deployment of this resource of our knowledge-based society. The special section that follows presents further research work on the use of blockchain and crypto tokens.

Data have been recognized as one of the key resources of the contemporary economy. Most of the data collections are proprietary, however, locked within the owner companies, and in many cases not cleaned and not organized by the owners, which vastly limits their usability and takes away from societal welfare. As a key economic resource, data have significant value that can be recognized by an appropriately designed marketplace. In fact, only the marketplace can reveal the value of the given data and provide the incentive for the owners to the data bases appropriately and share them outside the confines of the producer. As usual, the pure marketplace without the guiderails would not be societally desirable, as it can be preempted by a few richest buying firms that could withhold the data from others in the economy. Indeed, such data have a greater value to them in many cases, as these are economically complementary to the vast data resources they already hold. The potential entrepreneurial innovators and the existing smaller firms would be disadvantaged. The authors of the opening article, Ingrid Bauer-Hänsel, Qianyu Liu, Claudio J. Tessone, and Gerhard Schwabe, present the design of a blockchain-based data marketplace. The authors show the advantages of blockchain as a software infrastructure for such a market, analyze the alternative pricing regimes and their effects on the social welfare, and reveal a tipping point in pricing beyond which the market fails. The significance of this article, basing itself in the design-research perspective, is obvious.

The research works in the special section, guest edited by Kevin Craig, Valeria Sadovykh, David Sundaram, and Gabrielle Peko, further showcase the role of blockchain and crypto tokens. They present, respectively, how the brand value can be extracted from the NFT designs, and how the customer relationship can be enhanced with the use of blockchain. The guest editors introduce the articles to you. Taken together, the three articles contribute significant research-based insights to our still forming understanding of the blockchain and the crypto technologies, and of their interrelationships.

Online reviews underlie the effective operation of e-commerce. Fake reviews undermine that effectiveness, and affect trust in the entire functioning of this business modality. Positive fake reviews are generally sourced by the sellers; negative ones may be often traced to the competitors. The sophistication of software-supported generation of fake reviews is ever increasing. The detection of those needs to keep pace. Here, Yuchen Pan and Lu Xu present a novel method of detection of fake reviews based on unsupervised learning and demonstrate the method’s effectiveness by comparison with the existing techniques. Beyond that, the authors present a metric for the effectiveness evaluation of the detection methods of fake reviews. Bot theory and practice are served by this contribution.

Video-based social media are rapidly gaining ground. As in all social media, user engagement is sought by the platforms. Engagement is conditioned to a large degree by the emotional response to the given video. The emotions may be viewed as consisting of several core emotions, known as discrete emotions, some of which are positive and others negative. In the concluding article of the issue, Dinghao Xi, Jilei Zhou, Wei Xu, and Liumin Tang present an empirical study of the effects of discrete emotion synchronicity, that is, of the synchrony between the emotional content of the watched video and the viewers’ emotional reaction to it, in its influence on the user engagement. The empirics indicate nuanced and unobvious effects and lead to both theoretical and practical conclusions.