Commerce One, one of the providers of electronic commerce software for trading communities in discussion with Telecom New Zealand, has released a technical specification for mapping data elements between the Extensible Markup Language and the international Electronic Data Interchange standard called EDIFACT.
This mapping specification, called the Common Business Library 2.0, lets customers take information captured in XML, such as item price, shipping and quantity, and map it directly into the appropriate EDIFACT data set - or vice versa.
This would provide a common way to share data between XML and EDIFACT applications for those corporations doing business together electronically. Corporations using the Common Business Library (CBL) would be spared the chore of coming up with these mapping schemes on their own, perhaps re-inventing the EC wheel slightly differently each time.
Chuck Donchess, Commerce One's vice president of marketing, says his firm is making CBL freely available, but won't push it at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) or other standards body. "The W3C has aid they're not interested in this kind of spec," Donchess says.
However, CBL seems to have gotten the nod from Microsoft, the e-commerce forum called CommerceNet, the U.N. technical group for EDIFACT and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which has funded CBL research since 1997. It is now also part of Commerce One's products.
The Commerce One mapping effort does not yet include the American-made ANSI X12 transaction sets more widely used by U.S. companies, although that work may be included in future implementations of CBL, Donchess says.
According to Dr. Robert Glusko, the firm's director of advanced technology, the main value of the CBL 2.0 spec is that it gives "companies using EDI today a clear migration path to XML."
Commerce One executives acknowledged that EDI currently remains the most widely used format for e-commerce, although the industry regards the set of XML standards under development by the W3C as more flexible. That's because XML is a format-neutral way for machines to transfer business data while EDI is a fixed file format of defined fields.