U.S. Businesses Join International XML Debate

An XML standards body from the U.S. has been invited to join four
international groups to help shape the business platforms of tomorrow, the
Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards
(OASIS) officials announced Monday.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations
Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE), the International Electrotechnical
Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization
(ISO) invited the U.S. consortium of industry leaders to help coordinate
global standards for electronic business.

The memorandum of understanding gives OASIS a seat at the table when the
four international bodies discuss items of similar interest, like XML and
Web services, that affect international commerce.

Karl Best, OASIS director of technical operations, said the importance of
international standards for U.S. companies can’t be overstated enough.

“(An international standard) is very important because we have an
international economy and the Internet is international and has blown away
all the national boundaries — there is no such thing as commerce within a
single country anymore,” Best said. “If we’re going to have e-business
standards, they have to be international.”

XML is a watered-down specification of the standard generalized markup
language (SGML, developed by the ISO in 1986) for Web documents. XML
allows developers to create customized tags and is the backbone behind
efforts to create dynamic Web services in the U.S., an
industry that has taken shape almost overnight
and has nearly unlimited
potential.

OASIS board of directors include representatives from Sun Microsystems
Inc. , Hewlett-Packard Co. , Intel Corp.
and Microsoft Corp. .

International Telecommunication Union Bureau Director Houlin Zhao pointed
out the need for minimizing competitive measures taken by some companies
when a standard is being developed.

“The purpose of the MoU is to minimize the risk of divergent and
competitive approaches to standardization, avoid duplication of efforts and
confusion amongst users,” he said. “Under the MoU’s Management Group, for
instance, ITU technical groups will be able to share their agendas with
OASIS technical committees to promote convergence where appropriate and
advance the interests of the marketplace at-large.”

Of the four companies on the board of directors mentioned above, three have
competing Web services platforms using two development
frameworks Microsoft (.Net), Hewlett-Packard (e-Speak) and Sun (SunOne).

The consortium and its technical boards meet regularly to decide on
technical standards like ebXML, which was enhanced
Jan. 30
by two OASIS registry committees. The organization has also
adjusted its charter to incorporate the new “Web services” catchphrase, forming
committees
that outline the technology’s practice.

OASIS, unlike the international standards bodies they’ve joined up with,
doesn’t have the authority to make its technical recommendations
binding. Instead, the group tries to convince businesses to adopt the
practices in use by existing members.

Of course, that’s not a hard sell when many of the industry’s biggest names
are on the roster. Any new company or development team would find itself a
minority by trying to develop a standard of its own.

That doesn’t diminish the industry’s need for common practices, OASIS’ Best explained.

“We need to have agreement on how we do things,” he said. “E-business is
the free-flow of information and if I send you information, the two of us
need to agree on how that information is formatted. As we add more and
more partners, we need them to agree on how to send info. We have to agree.”

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