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Making e-commerce as free as can be

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This story appears in the November 1999 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

One of the first lessons of life is that there's no such thing as free. Yet the Internet always seems to be on the verge of making that rule as obsolete as a 300-baud modem. Here, after all, is where all sorts of stuff costs nothing beyond the usual $20-a-month access fee--zillions of Web pages crammed with text and graphics, numberless discussion groups, blazingly fast search engines, lifetime e-mail accounts, even inter-national telephone calls.

But surely e-commerce capabilities cost something, right? They did until July, when Bigstep.com began offering to get masses of small businesses on the Web for almost nothing. That includes displaying catalogs, taking orders, publishing customer newsletters, analyzing Web activity, building relationships and a lot more that small businesses couldn't afford before.

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