The First Online Transaction Ever Made Was For Drugs

Samuel Reason - February 29th, 2020

While nowadays buying and selling things online is a natural way of life, along with talking and keeping updated with all of our communications – just 100 years ago this would have seemed inconceivable. So it begs the questions, what in the world was the first internet deal? Shopify a massive e-commerce company, recently jumped into this query, and their findings were nothing short of astounding. It appears that the first transaction the internet was ever used to make was to sell weed.

The history of online commerce starts with ARPANET in 1971, where a deal between two students from Stanford and MIT happened to buy some cannabis. However, many consider this to not be the true start of online commerce. This is because though the deal was set up online, the actual transaction didn’t happen online, they simply used the messaging system to set up a time and a place.

We move on to 1984, when a 74 year old British grandmother fired up her Videotex, which was basically a television connected to a TV. And this grandmother by the name of Jane Snowball was able to use it to order provisions from her local grocery. But again, these were delivered by hand and she paid in cash – so is it really e-commerce?

Well the first true online transaction happened in 1994 with the invention of the internet how we know it today. Pizza Hut is often credited with the first e-commerce transaction as they started selling pizza online in the 1994s, the actual credit goes to Dan Kohn. Kohn was a 21 year old entrepreneur who ran a website called NetMarket.

And on August 11, 1994 the website sold a CD album to someone in Philadelphia. This was the first transaction ever protected by encryption technology, as they used a credit card online. Kohn boasted that even if the NSA was listening they would not have been able to capture the credit card details.

The site required people to download a special browser that only worked in the UNIX operating system, so it was far from easy to navigate. The NetMarket site used PGP encryption which many see as one of the early stepping stones of what turned into digital cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. So was the internet first used to buy drugs or buy music? Well it comes down to what you see as the technicalities.

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