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History of ODR

Nowadays we can hardly imagine a world now, where technology is viewed as a separate discipline, and not part of our daily lives. It is safe to say that there has been a pre- internet world and a post-internet world, and using technology, the post internet world has seen innumerable and unimaginable breakthroughs, Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) being one of them. ODR has the power to change the landscape of the dispute resolution mechanisms, across territories. It has the power to change how humans view resolving disputes altogether. It already has, and it further will.
·    The evolution of ODR and the Internet goes hand in hand in many ways.  Online Dispute resolution grew with increasing usage and developments in the internet landscape.  Due to the type of transactions and information that were being transferred through the internet, it was anticipated by many that the need for a dispute settlement mechanism for issues in cyberspace is a very likely prospect in future.
ODR as a dispute resolution mechanism was first brought forth in the year 1996. It started with the mention of ODR in a law review and thereafter in a conference sponsored by the National Center for Automated Information Research (NCAIR). The NCAIR organized the 1996 conference on online dispute resolution and provided funding for three ODR experiments [1]. The Virtual Magistrate project, conceived of by Johnson and several others, aimed at resolving disputes between Internet Service Providers and users [2]. The University of Massachusetts Online Ombudsman Office hoped to facilitate dispute resolution on the Internet generally [3].  Finally, the University of Maryland proposed to see if ODR could be employed in family disputes where parents were located at a distance.
As a result, there was novelty to these efforts in that they handled conflicts originating in cyberspace or related to cyberspace and all of these projects supported the paradigm of traditional alternative dispute resolution, namely two parties negotiating or a human third party mediating or arbitrating.
A substantive development in ODR occurred because of eBay. With increase in internet users and e-commerce transactions, disputes from online transactions were also on the rise. Therefore, a pilot project was developed by eBay with the help of University of Massachusetts to resolve disputes between buyers and sellers online.
Starting in 1999, ODR began to take advantage of tools that did more than communicate online and, as a result, began to differentiate it-self from its offline relatives. One of the principal catalysts for this change was a pilot project in online mediation that the University Of Massachusetts Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution conducted for eBay [4]. EBay’s terms of service, both then and now, did not require it to provide resources in the event some dispute arose over a transaction.  EBay had, quite creatively, set up a feedback rating system to allow parties to indicate whether a sale went smoothly, information that when aggregated was valuable in assessing whether a seller was trustworthy. Even with this resource, however, as eBay grew, disputes also continued to grow.
 The project was successful in handling 200 disputes in 2 week period. This resulted in EBay including a dispute resolution option for the consumers. Over the years, the disputes handled by the platform have steadily increased.
Success in resolving disputes online led to efforts to use online resources to help resolve more traditional offline disputes.
 In 2003, the Center began working with the UMASS Department of Computer Science and the National Mediation Board to model mediation processes online and received the first of several National Science Foundation grants to support this collaboration.  In 2008, the eBay Foundation provided assistance to the Center to help the Army provide online access to ombudsmen offices and to facilitate anonymous complaints relating to medical treatment.
More and more ODR startups were being launched every year. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (also known as, ICANN) also started offering dispute resolution in the online mode.  Slowly, online mediation and negotiation model started in various places.  Technology was used to conduct negotiations in automated manners. Certain channels used out-of-court blind-bidding process to come to a agreement or settlement [5].
Over the years, the development of ODR and its uses have been noted by several governments and countries. City of New York was one of the 1st to adopt ODR system to deal with their backlog cases,. Thereafter, the growth of technology and increasing transactions via internet has pushes forward ODR in European Union and countries like Brazil, United States etc.  ODR is being touted as an efficient form of dispute resolution by legal luminaries as well as government officials in India.  Though the system of ODR came to India much later, it seems to proliferating quickly.
While law is struggling to impose order on an online environment that is complex and ever changing, new methods of dispute resolution have emerged that rely on information processing and that, in addition, provide a level of security and stability. Alternative dispute resolution in the physical world is an alternative to litigation but ODR in the online world is an alternative to law in a broader sense and is, along with resolving disputes, performing some public functions such as lowering the risk level of participating online. Mediation and arbitration are labor–intensive activities but the online versions include new options and, in a sense, have been reconfigured by exploiting the information processing capabilities of the digital environment. The ongoing history of ODR is a history of the building of an online civic institution and it is, therefore, an example of what might be involved as attempts are made to build other kinds of civic institutions online.

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