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CommerceNet to use XML Web site for registry

By Nancy Weil
InfoWorld Electric

Posted at 9:30 AM PT, Jul 16, 1998
A Web site dedicated to Extensible Markup Language (XML) has been acquired by a global Internet-commerce consortium that intends to use the site as the core of a registry service to ensure interoperability and information exchange among developers.

XML Exchange (http://www.xmlx.com), which was launched 10 weeks ago, will now be run by CommerceNet, a non-profit I-commerce industry group with more than 500 worldwide members, CommerceNet announced. The Web site was acquired for an undisclosed sum from XMLSolutions, a Washington consulting company.

XML was finalized as a standard by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in February, and within weeks was hailed as the heir apparent to HTML. A subset of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), XML allows programmers to make it easier to find and index information on the Web.

HTML cannot identify text. That means, for instance, that HTML cannot distinguish when a number is a price. Nor can it determine in a search query the specific meaning of a particular word. As a result, a search of the word "Boss" might turn up listings for a model of a guitar, the musical genre bossa nova, Bossier Parish in Louisiana, the Boston Celtics, and an anti-stress page called "My Boss Sucks!" Even trying to pare down the search with more exact keywords will result in wildly disparate listings.

As long as programmers of various Web sites agree on definitions -- "price" or "cost," for example -- then XML-based sites will interoperate and that ability is seen as having a major effect on I-commerce in particular, not to mention making it easier to search the Web.

Of course, one hurdle to XML's use is that programmers have to agree on definitions, but the registry service set up by CommerceNet is supposed to help coordinate the definitions. The definitions are written as tags, which is code contained in angled brackets.

CommerceNet's eRegistry Service is intended to allow developers to quickly post new definition tag sets, to ensure accuracy of tag-set submissions and downloads, enable availability and keyword searching of content, and to create discussion forums, CommerceNet said.

XML Exchange includes topical forum areas created by members covering a range of subjects. The areas, which are being set up now, will allow XML programmers to discuss and post information on customizing XML for use in vertical industries including automotive, education, genealogy, history, insurance, military, real estate, and Web management. It also lists resources, such as books, and tracks XML news.

"XML will have a dramatic impact on the future development and growth of electronic commerce," said Randall Whiting, president and chief executive officer of CommerceNet, in the written statement.

The role of XML in advancing I-commerce has been widely underestimated, he said. Because the programming language enables interoperability between applications, companies, and industries, Whiting predicted that XML will allow companies to better integrate supply chains and cooperate on product design and development.

CommerceNet, in Palo Alto, Calif., can be reached at http://www.commerce.net. XML Solutions, in Washington, can be reached at http://www.xmls.com.

Nancy Weil is a correspondent in the Boston bureau of the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate.

Related articles:

"W3C OKs XML standard for organizing Web information"

Go to the Week's Top News Stories

Please direct your comments to InfoWorld Deputy News Editor, Carolyn April

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