Classical Business Principles for Ecommerce:
Balancing Open Source and Proprietary Paradigms to Optimize Business

Dr. Elliot McGucken


1. Register the domain name. If you can register a domain name, chances are you can also get the trademark on the words. The domain name is the flagship of your brand, so choose a good one--there're plenty of great ones left--I just registered, and incorporated it as a Delaware LLC a few minutes later at

2. Don't reinvent the wheel. Whatever you're trying to do on the web, chances are somebody has done it, and even better yet, chances are you can download the software for free, or for a small fee, from,, or

It's worth spending a couple hours researching these sites, as it'll save you years on down the road.

3. Learn a bit of html, and learn to code. I don't mean you should learn object-oriented programming in C, but learn some PHP and some mysql--just enough to take somebody else's code and make it look like your site--enough to plug in a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MYSQL, PHP) project. There're are thousands of online tutorials, many which can be found at the same sites where you download the software, or at places like or Even if you barely ever code, by spending a couple weeks at the nuts and bolts level, you'll be in a better position to hire somebody to code for you, or to purchase software. Before I settle on any particular software, I usually examine the listed features of up to ten packages, and install three of them.

Then I settle on the best, based on the following criteria:

A. Is the project supported by an active group? Does it have a track record?

B. Do the features rock? Do they have a list of future features?

C. Is it modular in design--is it template driven and easy to customize?

D. Is it aimed at the latest in LAMP (Linux, Apache, MYSQL, PHP)?

4. Start with shared hosting. Get a shared-hosting account. Dedicated and colocated servers can wait until you're having 5,000 people buying your product every three minutes. In choosing a shared-hosting account, get one which gives you access to LAMP, as well as one that allows you ssh (secure telnet) shell access in addition to ftp. If you're spending more than $19.95/month when you sign up, you're paying too much.

5. Get listed. Get listed everywhere. Use meta tags with appropriate kyewords and descriptions. Open your site up to the world. Flat html files are the most easily spidered, so stay away from cgi and php scripts which place too much garbage in the urls--you know, the suff that looks like file.php?dsahjsadh=kfskf&hgfsjfh=21312. Trade links with friends, join webrings, and share your site with others. Do not spam. Provide useful information to appropriate audiences, and they shall be grateful. They'll tell their friends, and people believe their friends far more than they believe popup advertisements and spam.

5. Technology is labor immortalized, so get some sleep. Software is labor immortalized. It will work 24 hours a day, providing information, customer service, and taking orders. Everything that you set up should be done with the idea of taking yourself out of the equation. It's not a business which can be sold until it doesn't need you. Once upon a time this meant hiring great employees. Today it means uploading, writing, and configuring great code.

6. Incorporate, Trademark, Copyright, Patent, but don't talk to lawyers. Now that you have a site up and running, and you're making some money, you already have a legal business. And provided that nobody else is selling a similar service under the same name, you have a legal claim to the trademark too. By this point a lot of things have been solidified--you've probably settled upon a brand and a product, so now it's time to hop on over to and set your company up as a Delaware LLC. An LLC will afford you personal legal protection, as your assets will be separated from the business's, and it will allow you to pay taxes as a sole proprietor, or as a partner. If you're looking for investors, an incorporation might be better, but you can always change, should you meet a billionaire who believes in your vision. I've been running a business for seven years, and I've never paid a lawyer. The vast majority of law is common sense--the second law moves beyond common sense, it is probably because it is becoming corrupted. On the Frieze of the United States Supreme Court, it says, "Equal Justice Under the Law."

Visit and fill out the forms and pay the fees that shall secure you the patents, trademarks, and copyrights that are legally yours. And then hop on over to, and set yourself up an LLC, or an S-corporation, or a corporation. If you're making millions at this point, go ahead and hire a lawyer, but if not, the money would be better spent in perhaps buying a second site or developing a second revenue stream.

7. Keep Adding Revenue Streams Never stop. Become an affiliate and let them pay your cell phone bill. Become a Dell affiliate and let them pay your electric bill. Visit and, and become affiliates with appropriate vendors. Download phpmyads from, and serve banners from loacl companies, as well as from,,, and Start offering subscriptions to your publication, utilizing paypal to collect fees--add a classified ads system, an auction, and a dating service for your memebers. Offer to manage businesses email needs and webservers. The opportunities are endless--pick and choose the ones you are passionate about.
Rev Quest

8. Buy your server. By this time you're pushing so much bandwidth that your ISP has threatened to shut you down. Your big cost is going to be bandwidth. Finding a local place is great, but sometimes local ISP's can cost a bit much. Check out for some price comparisons--you can always get two servers, one at your local ISP to handle backups, and one at a remote location to push out high-bandwidth entities, such as pictures or streaming media.

9. Accept Credit Cards Cardservices International rocks!

10. Give back to the community. Bost some hacks to, or publish some tips on a bulletin board somewhere. Share your knowledge, give some old computers to a local startup or a school. Network an elementary school, or just hang out with fellow local techsters--you'll find tons of people to mentor and to be mentored by in this wondrous world of open source.

Software is labor immortalized: manage software, not people.

Suppose you need to set up a website to sell 1-1,000 items. How much will it cost?
Small Ecommerce Solutions
  • Stores
  • commerce-cgi

    Suppose your company expands to carry over 1,000,000 items and you grow to include bulletin boards, chats, reviews, and articles. You are now serving over 1,000,000 pageviews a day to over 100,000 unique visitors, and processing thousands of orders. What's it going to take?
    Big Ecommerce Solutions

  • The Exchange Project

    Linux is good for business, but not always a good business.

  • VA Linux Switches Name
  • The Curve

    It's nice to see your server now and then, or at least talk to somebody who does.

  • Colocation
  • Dedicated
  • Inflow

    Your server is your most important employee--hire a good one.

  • IBM $$$$
  • Compaq $$$$$
  • Generic:

    Batten down the hatches and replace the old ones.

  • Red Hat Updates
  • Securing Linux
  • Port Sentry Report
  • Common Attacks
  • Watchguard

    Don't talk to lawyers until you need one (or marry one).


    The only Constitutional "right."

  • Copyrights
  • Trademarks
  • Patents
  • The Public Domain

    DOMAIN NAME REGISTRATION doesn't have a monopoly anymore.


    Free advertising.


    Payment Methods


    Web Design




    Don't reinvent the wheel.

  • Database Management:

    Let your users build the content.


    It's OK for a dot-com to turn a profit.