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Q: What does ICE stand for?
A: ICE stands for Information & Content Exchange. This is a proposed protocol for the automatic, controlled exchange and management of online assets between business partners.
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Q: What is ICE, and why is it being created?
A: ICE is being created to standardize the way in which businesses can set up online relationships with other businesses to exchange information in a controlled, measured, targeted fashion. Today there is no accepted protocol for establishing these relationships, forcing companies to create one-off technology integrations with each site they choose to do business with. Currently, businesses have no standard means of controlling, exchanging and sharing information with other businesses without timely and expensive manual processes. Developers have no common platform on which to build powerful networked applications to serve multiple data types. And, individuals are finding it difficult to access rich, personalized networked experiences while protecting their privacy. With ICE, businesses can easily partner with any number of affiliates to create online destinations such as syndicated publishing networks, Web superstores, and online reseller channels.

Q: WWho is participating in the ICE ad-hoc working group?
A: The ICE ad-hoc working group is comprised of a unique blend of two types of customer-driven companies: a) technology firms including Adobe, Firefly, JavaSoft, National Semiconductor, and Vignette, and b) asset exchanging companies including CNET, Hollinger International, News Internet Services, Preview Travel, Tribune Media Services, and ZD Net.

Q: What is XML?
A: The Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a data format for structured document interchange on the Web. XML is a project of the World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and the development of the specification is being supervised by their XML Working Group, of which Vignette is a member.

Q: How does ICE relate to XML?
A: The underlying protocol of ICE is XML-based and describes content syndication relationships between web servers. XML holds the potential to be a revolutionary new approach to managing and interchanging structured content within and across companies of all sizes.

Q: What is OPS/P3P?
A: OPS ("Open Profiling Standard") is a specification submitted by Firefly, Netscape and Microsoft to the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) working group within the W3C. OPS proposes an open industry standard for the online exchange of profile information between individuals and businesses within a framework for privacy. The proposal has won the support of over 100 leading companies including IBM, American Express, Oracle, Digital, Knight-Ridder, Sun, US Web and Yahoo!

Q: How does ICE relate to OPS/P3P?
A: ICE is a logical extension to the work being done on P3P because it manages the exchange of electronic assets from business to business (server to server) in a completely trusted and controlled manner. In keeping with the guiding principles of OPS-control by source and informed consent--ICE enables businesses to automatically describe what information can be passed to each affiliate and what may be done with that asset once displayed on an affiliate site. Supporting OPS/P3P will also enable business to present the best personalized content and information to customers.

Q: When will ICE-compatible products be available?
A: You can expect to see technology previews that support ICE throughout the first half of 1998. Commercially available ICE-based products will be available from companies shortly after the ICE specification is completed and submitted for approval by a standards body.

Q: How will ICE be proposed for consideration as a standard?
A: The ICE ad-hoc working group is developing a proposed specification and predicts that this will be ready by June or July of this year. This timeframe will remain flexible as the work proceeds. The ad-hoc working group has begun coordinating efforts with standards bodies to streamline the process of submission.

Q: Why don't companies generally form networked relationships today?
A: Today, when two companies want to exchange content online, they must negotiate everything from the format of the information to the structure of their Web sites to the names of the people responsible for maintaining current information. This is a highly inefficient, inaccurate and non-scalable model. It becomes prohibitively complex when three or more businesses are involved. ICE adds a standardized, predictable, automated method for such exchanges with an unlimited number of partners.

Q: Is ICE an e-commerce transaction protocol like EDI?
A: No. ICE does not replace secure transaction protocols such as EDI. ICE focuses on the exchange of online assets and the business rules by which these assets are shared, such as usage, expiration, updates, etc.

Q: How do consumers benefit from ICE-compliant Web businesses?
A: Consumers today have millions of Web sites to choose from when looking for information. Unfortunately, this vast choice often results in the frustration of having to surf through many inadequate, narrowly-focused Web sites in order to find what they need. The creation of syndicated publishing networks, Web superstores, and online reseller channels using the ICE specification means that consumers benefit from more complete and easier to use Web destinations.

Q: Are there any advantages for Web site developers?
A: Web site developers today have no standardized platform for developing sites that leverage assets from other sites in a controlled network exchange. With ICE, developers enjoy more rapid development of networked applications and destinations, while leveraging existing and proposed standards. Most importantly, ICE enables the exchange of structured information no matter what the particular site architecture may be among the network of partners. In short, ice will save web site developer time, money and resources.

Q: What roles are Vignette and Firefly playing in the ICE process?
A: Vignette, creator of ICE, is a member of the W3C, which is the industry standards consortium responsible for most web-based standards include HTML and XML. Additionally, Vignette is an active member of the W3C working group charged with the XML specification. Firefly is also a member of the W3C and was the driving force behind the creation of the OPS/P3P standard. Vignette and Firefly have volunteered to co-drive the logistics of the ICE working group.

Q: How is ICE different from push-technology?
A: Push technologies are primarily used for scheduling client applications to pull content. ICE-based systems will enable this but also allow the content source to control its content by proactively sending refreshes and expirations to subscribers without the need to wait for the next refresh cycle. This two-way intelligent exchange clearly differentiates ICE from push.

Q: What is the relationship of the ICE ad-hoc working group to the W3C?
A: The ICE ad-hoc working group is a group of leading customer-driven companies working to develop the ICE specification. The ICE ad-hoc working group is evaluating various standards bodies, including the W3C, and will submit the specification to the appropriate formal working group within the chosen standard body once the specification had been completed.

Q: Why are networked relationships important?
A: Businesses are interested in forming networked relationships with their affiliates for a number of reasons. Networked relationships will enable a business to:

» increase the value of their electronic assets and brand by leveraging an affiliate outlet and expanded audience for those assets;
» leverage the best content on the Web;
» build stronger and more profitable online business relationships with strategic companies and affiliates;
» extend the expertise of affiliate businesses to customers;
» solidify loyalty among customer base by leveraging joint customers;
» develop a better understanding of their customers based on customers' relationships with affiliate businesses;
» offer customers a seamless navigation experience;
» draw on the combined resources of their affiliates in order to provide end users with highly personalized content.

Q: How secure is ICE?
A: The ICE working group recognizes the need for the security within the context of the protocol and will be addressing these issues within the process of the working group. However, it is important to note that although security is an important issue in term of networked businesses, the ICE architecture does not primarily focus on that issue. ICE is being designed to be an open architecture that will offer businesses the ability to handle security with their own preferred solution based on other industry standard or proprietary solutions. For example, ICE will enable a business to leverage standards such as LDAP, HTTP for security, or let a business decide to choose a solution that is based on SSL.

Q: When will a specification be available?
A: The ICE specification will be made publicly available once it is properly submitted and recognized by a leading standards body. At that time, the specification will be posted on various sites across the Web and made available by participating companies.

Q: Will ICE make it more difficult for smaller players to create affiliate networks?
A: ANo, ICE actually levels the playing field for smaller businesses because it enables them to create networked affiliate relationships with a minimum of development and administrative resources. Without ICE, only larger businesses had the resources to create these types of networks.

In addition, by facilitating the creation of networks, small businesses could band together to compete against larger competitors. For example, a group of small independent booksellers could create an affiliate network in order to compete against book superstores.

Q: How do businesses use ICE to determine and set businesses rules by which they share information?
A: ICE provides an architecture that gives businesses full autonomy to establish rules for conducting business with each business partner and affiliate. Some examples of these business rules include a determination of what information will be shared; who it will be shared with, who it won't be shared with; an expiration for that information (e.g. duration or page views); and a frequency for updating information.

Once these rules have been freely determined, ICE provides an automated way to apply those rules to every transaction and interaction between businesses partners while avoiding timely and expensive human involvement. As a result, ICE allows for more profitable, cost-effective, and efficient way to conduct business online with strategic business partners.

Q: Does ICE address copyright issues?
A: No. ICE does not directly address copyright issues, however it does provide a much more intelligent way of managing the exchange of and control over information among business partners.

Q: Does ICE only apply to E-commerce business networks?
A: TNo. ICE is intended to become a standard for the controlled exchange of information and electronic assets among business partners in a wide-range of markets and industries. E-commerce is an obviously a promising market for ICE, but the standard can have the same impact for online corporate extranets, value-added reseller networks, and syndicated publishing networks, to just name a few. ICE is applicable to any business that places a high-value on its electronic assets, business relationships and competitive advantage.