Closing the language gap

Although Electronic Business XML (ebXML) may be the ultimate goal for an XML business standard, it will be at least several years before the core component features that will provide the semantic foundation for electronic data exchanges are developed.

But the demand to use XML for e-business is building, and something will be needed in the interim. That critical piece of the puzzle will be filled by the Universal Business Language (UBL), a development begun last month by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). UBL will define a common XML business document library that will enable trading partners to clearly identify documents that are to be exchanged in specific business contexts.

UBL will be a synthesis of already existing, but largely proprietary, XML business document libraries. The starting point is Commerce One Inc.'s widely used XML Common Business Library (xCBL), which the company provides free to anyone who wants to use it.

"You need a way to agree on what documents and messages need to be exchanged," said David Burdett, product manager of xCBL and XML standards for Commerce One. "That's why the UBL is needed, so businesses can quickly build a set of XML document descriptions."

Officials expect the development of UBL to take about a year.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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