Joy Viren Murphy will be getting a lump of coal in her stocking this year.
The entrepreneur has been selling handmade Christmas stockings for 12 years, the last eight of them online. Working from the attic of her three-story Rock Island, Ill., Victorian house, Ms. Murphy makes a couple of thousand stockings a year. During the busy months, October through December, her sister and niece come over to help her cut, tack and stitch.
But her business, Aunt Joy's Personalized Christmas Stockings, is facing a new, high-tech hurdle, thanks to Microsoft Corp's. new Internet Explorer 7 Web browser. IE7 has a security feature that will turn Web-address bars green and display owners' identities when consumers visit secure sites from businesses verified as legitimate. The color change will be a boon for consumers, who have been barraged in recent years with "phishing" scams designed to lure them to fake versions of popular Web sites, like eBay or their bank, to filch their account numbers. The hope is that the program will help reduce fraud, lift trust and boost e-commerce.
But browsers won't turn green when customers visit Ms. Murphy's site. That's because sole proprietorships, general partnerships and individuals won't be eligible for the new, stricter security certificates that Microsoft requires to display the color. There are about 20.6 million sole proprietorships and general partnerships in the U.S., according to 2003 and 2004 tax data from the Internal Revenue Service, though it isn't clear how many are engaged in e-commerce.