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Last modified: March 07, 2002
Hybrid Mail Language (HML)

[March 07, 2002] The Hybrid Mail Language (HML) was developed in CEN/TC 331, WG 2 (Hybrid Mail). The standard was published as an "adopted specification" in January, 2001: ENV 14014:2001. Postal services - Hybrid mail - Document type definitions for customer to operator: a common set of default tags.

From "An Introduction to XML." By Jacob Johnsen (Convenor WG2). In CEN/TC 331 Newsletter #7 October 2000. ['In this newsletter, you will find an introduction to XML, which an Internet related document formatting standard used by the Hybrid Mail Language. This contribution comes from Jacob Johnsen, who performed very well to find a large consensus for the Hybrid Mail "Electronic Envelope" standard.'] "Recently, WG2 of CEN/TC331 issued a standard proposal for the 'Hybrid Mail Language -- HML', which is a universal language to be used between customers and hybrid mail operators, as well as between hybrid mail operators.... the use of XML can be seen in the new standard for hybrid mail, where a complete Hybrid Mail Language (HML) has been described. The HML standard, expected to be approved by the end of this year, describes the format to be used when creating items to be processed in hybrid mail operations. The following is a short summary of the HML standard and the reason for choosing XML as a basis. In order to be flexible, the HML standard must be able to describe anything, from one simple message to millions of either similar or very different messages. It must support all known and not yet known postal and production processes, and to accept all types of messages. The sender must have the freedom to bundle messages at his wish and to create his HML data from a selection of leading applications. HML data are organised in various levels. An HML package can contain one or more mailbags. Each mailbag can contain one or more lots, and each lot can contain one or more letters. And again, each letter can contain one or more pages. However, these are all optional; your package can contain only one page if you so wish. The naming conventions of 'mailbags', 'lots', 'letters' and 'pages' come from the existing hybrid mail business; the content does not need to be printable -- in fact, in the future, it is foreseen that any type of data can be packaged and processed in HML. You can add data that is linked to the message at any level. You may for example have one sender address associated to one mailbag and another associated to another mailbag in the same HML package. All of this is mainly due to the flexible -- yet well defined -- structure offered by XML..."

From the CEN/TC 331 Newsletter #6: "The definition of a common language for the data input and data interchange for a hybrid mail system has been proposed by Workgroup 2. The document CEN/TC 331/N205 (Draft EN 00331017) is available through the TC 331 secretariat or from the Workgroup. The document describes 'HML - Hybrid Mail Language.' This is done via a common set of printing architectures and resources. The description is based on XML (Extensible Markup Language) witch is a World Wide Web consortium standard widely supported by the industry. The description takes the form of a DTD (Document Type Description) whereby all elements are described. HML can be generated by most common software applications available which handles XML. The HML concept includes description of an electronic mailbag, and electronic envelope and an electronic page, coping with the existing Print Definition Languages. The focus is made on the postal level and the possibility to process at each level independently of the others. The main information needed (i.e., postal and production) is tagged..."

From the Sun Microsystems Consulting Case Study: "According to the Hybrid Mail in the Third Millennium report, the potential of hybrid mail messaging (in computer mail processing markets) will increase more than 460 percent between 1978 and 2005. And thanks to an aggressive first-mover advantage, IDP stands to become the de facto standard hybrid message management system provider. Moreover, it is not just the technology that gives the company its edge; rather, it is also the fact that IDP was heavily involved in the development of HML, which was approved by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) in January 2001. IDP serves as a technical advisor to the committee... 'IDP has been a major driver in defining hybrid mail language,' says [IDP's] Johnsen. 'We have helped introduce HML as the interface language between Java technology-based transactions, which were developed by Sun Professional Services, and the back office system that we developed.' Messages are collected in WEB ePOST and transferred from the customer to the application server using HML. These messages are then routed by an appropriate EJB component through the JDBC layer to the back-end systems. Explains Johnsen, 'HML gives us the flexibility to draw from, create and exchange documents in multiple formats. This means that our customers can count on WEB ePOST to support most any business or personal communications.'... HML is a superset of Extensible Markup Language (XML), the standard protocol for describing Web documents. J2EE technology defines a set of descriptors in XML, making it easy to implement customizable components and to develop custom tools. HML allows applications to exchange mail or messages according to a specific standardthe electronic envelope. In this way, any document format can be exchanged between systems. HML is already being adopted by major postal operators as the industrys standard document type definition (DTD)... When iPlanet Application Server receives an HML letter, this spawns a process that takes the HML document and places it in a directory in Oracle8i database. EJB components put a record in a certain table, called hybrid mail transact, and also trigger payment functions. A UNIX-based process then goes into the transaction table to check for new print jobs as well as timestamps. If jobs exist, an EJB component then evokes the printing process. Also residing on the database tier is JADK, the credit card authorization application that IDP used when testing WEB ePOST..."

Development background (from CEN/TC 133 Newsletter #6): "WG2 held meetings 21-22 September 1999 and on 15 November 1999 with experts from Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. The aim was to prepare and launch a 'Pink Paper Procedure' for the DTD (Document Type Definition) describing the hybrid mail language. The target was to have the procedure initiated in October 1999. This was met and the paper was sent out on 1 November 1999, giving a deadline for comments for 1 February 2000. On 16 November 1999 a common CEN and EC meeting was held in Brussels where the workgroup presented the proposed standard for delegates representing CEN TC331, the EC (European Commission), industry players, hybrid mail providers, customers using hybrid mail, standardisation bodies and various organisation. The meeting included a presentation of the study 'Hybrid Mail in the Third Millennium' made by Mackintel Ltd. The conclusions were many but especially the industry players and the customers were eager to confirm that they regarded the new standard as very relevant to their business and highly needed. The feedback from the 'Pink Paper Procedure' will now be studied by the workgroup in order to further progress the draft standard. The workgroup expects to be able to advise the TC on their findings during April 2000..."


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