Introduction to the Special Issue: Intelligent Agents for Electronic Commerce

Ting-Peng Liang, Guest Editor
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 4, Number 3, Spring 2000, pp. 3.

Abstract: Electronic commerce that allows transactions to be completed over the Internet is gaining ever greater attention. Thousands of new players and new ideas are entering this arena, and its complexity is increasing at unprecedented speed. As a result, it has become necessary to rely more and more on local autonomy and intelligent judgment at each transactional stage in this virtual world of commerce. In other words, software agents that can automatically perform certain behaviors to reduce the load on consumers or make the cyberworld more efficient will play an increasingly important role in electronic commerce.

The concept of intelligent agents has been around in the IS world for some time. It is useful when a specific activity must be performed automatically by a computer-based system. Because of the rapid expansion of the Internet, agent technology is very suitable for certain kinds of business activities, such as information search and providing assistance.This issue includes six papers related to various aspects of the application of intelligent agents to support electronic commerce.

The paper by Moukas, Guttman, Zacharia, and Maes gives an overview of the work done at MIT’s Media Laboratory on different types of agents for electronic commerce: from a consumer-to-consumer classified ads system to merchant agents that provide integrative negotiation capabilities, from agents that facilitate expertise brokering to distributed reputation facilities, and from point-of-sale comparison-shopping agents to mobile shopping systems.

The paper by Liang and Doong reports on an empirical study that investigated the effect of a bargaining agent. They set up an electronic shopping mall and recruited subjects to interact with a price-bargaining agent. The results show that consumers prefer shopping at bargaining stores even when there is no financial gain. Different bargaining strategies and personalities may affect the outcome and customer satisfaction.

For situations in which content maintenance is important, Chaturvedi, Choubey, and Roan propose an agent that uses a time-invariant fragmentation approach to actively update valuable data. Their results suggest that the active approach is most effective for electronic commerce because of the high percentage of modification queries, the large size of the network, and the great number of transactions.

One feature of electronic commerce is that interactive and personalized services are conveniently available. Lai presents an object-oriented architecture for an intelligent virtual receptionist that can provide friendly, individualized services to customers. Lee and Yoon’s paper introduces the application of intelligent agents to help process electronic checks. The agent is able to monitor the electronic process and block the issuance of illegal checks.

Sandholm’s paper reviews issues in computational Vickrey auctions. It explains the advantages and limitations of alternative protocols and special characteristics of Internet auctions.

TING-PENG LIANG ( is a professor of information management and dean for academic affairs at National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan. Earlier he was dean of the College of Management, director of the Graduate Institute of Information Management, and director of the Software Incubator at the same university, and was also the founder of the Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems. He received his doctoral degree in information systems from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and taught at the University of Illinois and at Purdue University until 1992. His primary research interests include electronic commerce, decision-support systems, and strategic applications of information systems. His papers have appeared in a number of journals, including Management Science, MIS Quarterly, Decision Support Systems, and Decision Sciences. He also serves on the editorial boards of several academic journals.