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Making e-commerce as free as can be

By John W. Verity

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

One of the first lessons of life is that there's no suchthing as free. Yet the Internet always seems to be on the verge ofmaking 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 andgraphics, numberless discussion groups, blazingly fast searchengines, lifetime e-mail accounts, even inter-national telephonecalls.

But surely e-commerce capabilities cost something, right? Theydid until July, when Bigstep.com began offering to get masses ofsmall businesses on the Web for almost nothing. That includesdisplaying catalogs, taking orders, publishing customernewsletters, analyzing Web activity, building relationships and alot more that small businesses couldn't afford before.

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