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Global E-Commerce Standard Proposed

By Michael Mahoney
May 15, 2001 5:55 PM PT

Use of the XML mark-up language as a global standard for e-commerce transactions took an important step forward Monday when the U.N. Center for Trade Facilitation (UN/CEFACT) and OASIS, a consortium of high tech giants including IBM, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard, approved a standardized ebXML (electronic business) framework.

Global E-Commerce Standard Proposed

"The whole point of e-business is keeping information electronic so it moves throughout all the trading partners. If all the partners have different standards, the information flow stops. It's critical to have everyone playing with the same standards," Gartner analyst Jeff Roster told the E-Commerce Times.

According to OASIS, the goal of ebXML is to facilitate the trade between companies, regardless of size or networking language, and to use XML (extensible mark-up language) in a consistent manner to exchange electronic business data.

"ebXML implementations are already being announced, and we expect the rate of deployment to accelerate quickly," said Patrick Gannon, chair of the OASIS board of directors.

Common Ground

ebXML provides a standard method for the exchange of business messages and trade data. It also allows e-business clients to request services from Web servers over any application-level transport protocol, including HTTP and others.

The creation of ebXML began with an international initiative established by UN/CEFACT and OASIS in late 1999.

Monday's announcement marks the completion of an 18-month program to research and identify the technical basis upon which the global implementation of XML could be standardized.

Still Evolving

Still, analysts say that the goal of having global e-marketplaces run on the same standards, such as the ebXML mark-up language, is a long way off.

"The goal is to get the fax machine out of the process, to get paper out of the loop. If you can keep everything electronic, now you're truly in a collaborative environment," Roster said.

While the adoption of a common standard is a step forward, the trading companies on the Internet "still have to figure out exactly what they're trying to do," Roster said.

Coming Together

In February, the OASIS consortium announced it would integrate a competing e-commerce standard being developed by Microsoft into the OASIS ebXML standard.

Though operating on different schedules and with slightly different agendas, both sides were working to develop a common standard for all e-business transactions. However, according to published reports IBM dismissed Microsoft's SOAP standard as "lightweight" while Microsoft had criticized the IBM effort for taking too much time.

The integration of the two standards marked a turn in the road for OASIS, which had previously resisted use of the Microsoft e-commerce standards.

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