Few consumers have embraced the idea of using digital cash. CDnow, an online retailer in Jenkintown, Pa., has received next to nothing in digital cash since it began offering that payment option early in 1996. Many small-business owners believe that their customers are nervous about making online purchases using an ordinary credit card. But it looks like credit-card sales are the way to do business online. Many company owners say their customers prefer credit cards online, and it may be many years before consumers become comfortable with digital money.

For their part, retailers say they feel more relaxed about their Web businesses than they do in their traditional bricks-and-mortar stores. Anyone who buys a product online must provide a shipping address, and that information could help authorities track down a culprit whose credit-card number turns out to be stolen.

"In a physical store, the credit-card thief just walks away, and I'd never be able to get hold of him," says Chris MacAskill, president of Computer Literacy, in Sunnyvale, Calif., who has decided to skip digital cash in favor of credit cards.

For Internet commerce to thrive, buyers must become as confident as sellers. "Perception about security threats is the only problem with Internet security," says Jason Olim, CEO of CDnow. "If consumers are buying from a company with a recognized name, there is no fear factor."