The retail world is buzzing with the rapid development of internet marketplaces such as GlobalNetXchange and the WorldWide Retail Exchange. While it's probably fair to say these exchanges are more aspirational than based on solid financial accords, we would be crazy to ignore their presence. After all, these two exchanges between them, together with Wal-Mart's supplier network, account for over US$500bn of business to business trade. Cynics may say there have been buying groups before ­ for example the Association of Marketing Services (AMS) ­ but I believe the major differences today are ones of timing and technology. The power of the internet is often making technology the master of business strategy, rather than the servant: the Network Revolution is creating a sea change allowing us to take exchanges that bit further and deliver massive business benefits. Couple this with the Wal-Mart effect, where everyone is looking for ways to compete with them on a level playing field, and it feels like the timing is right. By staying out of an exchange, retailers are limiting themselves to a proprietary supplier network. While this may offer benefits of speed of operation and control, it's difficult to believe that global manufacturers will place the same emphasis on these proprietary networks as on larger global exchanges that give them access to retailers across the world. No-one knows for sure how these exchanges will develop in the future, or how many there will be. But I feel sure we are only at the beginning of this shaping of global communities of interest, both in business to business and business to consumer environments. Watch this e-space. {{NEWS }}