spacer spacer spacer
yalealumnimagazine.com   about the Yale Alumni Magazine   classified & display advertising   back issues 1992-present   our blogs   The Yale Classifieds   yam@yale.edu   support us


The Yale Alumni Magazine is owned and operated by Yale Alumni Publications, Inc., a nonprofit corporation independent of Yale University.

The content of the magazine and its website is the responsibility of the editors and does not necessarily reflect the views of Yale or its officers.


Comment on this article

Inside the Blue Book
E-Commerce: Doing Business on the Internet

CPSC 155b
Faculty: Joan Feigenbaum, Professor of Computer Science

When the stock bubble for electronic businesses burst in March 2000, many people swiftly backed away from Internet ventures. Yale students’ interest, however, is still going strong—if the 150-student enrollment in “E-commerce: Doing Business on the Internet” is any sign. The course, offered by the computer science department, is an experimental teaching task for professor Joan Feigenbaum, who was a member of the research staff in computer science at AT&T Labs before coming to Yale in July 2000.


Feigenbaum doesn’t pretend that she can teach anyone how to become an Internet billionaire.

The goal of the course is to explain recent technological developments of what Feigenbaum calls a “boom-and-bust world” in terms accessible for non-technological people. Students learn how the Internet causes businesses to operate differently, and what new businesses come about with mass market Internet access.

Feigenbaum and her students study the fates of such businesses as Netscape, eBay, and Amazon in order to better understand the medium. “If, like Amazon, you present choices in intelligent ways, and if you deliver the goods and follow through, consumers will be satisfied,” says Feigenbaum. But of all the companies that now exist, it is hardly possible to predict which ones will survive, let alone know what these businesses will look like in ten years.

What the course is not about is how to create a multimillion-dollar Internet business. “Unfortunately for all concerned, I don’t have any expertise in how to become an Internet billionaire. I don’t pretend that I can teach anyone how to make a business a success,” says Feigenbaum. The class does look at how Internet businesses take advantage of changes in computer technology, and at e-commerce’s legal, social, and political implications.

While most of the students are economics majors, others come from psychology, engineering, American studies, political science, and computer science. “Computer science as a department has lots to offer to Yale students in general—not just to computer science majors,” says Feigenbaum. And why do all these students continue to be interested in e-commerce, in spite of the sagging NASDAQ? “The students don’t see the course as the means of learning how to make money,” says Feigenbaum, “but rather as a way to see how the world works.”  the end


©1992–2012, Yale Alumni Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Yale Alumni Magazine, P.O. Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905, USA. yam@yale.edu