UBL standard published

An international standards organization has published the first full version of the Universal Business Language (UBL), the result of a six-year development effort that promises much easier use of Extensible Markup Language in government and commercial organizations.

The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) believes UBL 1.0, which defines a standard syntax for passing basic documents such as purchase orders and invoices across different business domains, will lower the costs of using XML and help extend existing electronic data interchange (EDI) systems to businesses of all sizes.

Jon Bosak, an engineer with Sun Microsystems Inc. and chairman of the OASIS UBL technical committee, sees UBL complementing electronic business using XML (ebXML) standards in a way that will lead to widespread adoption of XML EDI over the next year or so. He believes that will help create a global business web with "profound implications" for businesses, developers, government and consumers.

In fact, he thinks government procurement agencies could be the first major adopters of UBL. That's already happening internationally, with the Danish government recently announcing the adoption of UBL for its e-government portal.

The outlook for UBL in the U.S. federal government is less clear.

It's very much a wait-and-see attitude to UBL within federal agencies, said Brand Niemann, a computer scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency and chairman of the CIO Council's XML Web Services Working group.

"The real benefit of the [UBL 1.0] announcement is that several hundred companies collaborated in developing it, so it will be interesting to see if any of them do something with it and how well it works" he said. "However, there's not one UBL pilot yet that I know of at the federal level."

One of the problems Brand sees is that UBL 1.0 deals with "just the tip of the iceberg" as far as the number of relevant business documents it deals with.

UBL 1.0 is freely available now at docs.oasis-open.org/ubl/cd-UBL-1.0, and users do not have to pay fees or royalties.

The OASIS committee draft of UBL 1.0 will be submitted to the OASIS organization for formal adoption as an OASIS standard later this year, and then will be submitted to the International Standards Organization for inclusion as an ISO standard.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

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

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