Standards Bodies Work On XML Business Framework

Two standards organizations are working together to enable the Extensible Markup Language (XML) to be used in business-to-business communication by providing a framework for exchanging XML data between business partners.

Two standards organizations are working together to enable the Extensible Markup Language (XML) to be used in business-to-business communication by providing a framework for exchanging XML data between business partners.

The Graphical Communication Association Research Institute (GCA) and the Data Interchange Standards Association (DISA) are looking to build libraries of Document Type Definitions (DTDs), Java applets, template scripts, forms, and object definitions to enable businesses to process these message components.

The structured XML documents will define the data elements that make up the messages, describing the relationships of the data elements to one another.

One analyst said the groups are missing the boat on what needs to be done with XML.

J.P. Morgenthal, president of NC Focus, a consultancy in Hewlett, New York, said people need to be educated more about XML instead of groups racing to force standardization before there is any wide implementation.

"The problem is that this gives people the wrong idea that this is necessary in order to make XML work, which it isn't," Morgenthal said. "This was necessary for SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), and you'll notice it's the SGML people pushing these things."

Morgenthal said a system whereby various developers came up with their own schema for electronic commerce and then combined them into a best-of-breed scheme would make more sense. He also thinks people need to stop reinforcing the message that XML is only good for Web publishing.

"XML is not about the Web. HTML is about the Web. XML is about structured meta data," Morgenthal said. "People aren't talking enough about (using XML for) messaging, remote procedure calls, and distributed computing."

Another analyst said the conformity XML brings by nature to the picture makes building libraries an easy way for people to begin their implementations.

"Because XML is very tightly designed spec, without a lot of room for implementations to behave differently, organizations should feel comfortable moving ahead with plans like these," said Simon St. Laurent, author of "XML: A Primer," in Greensboro, North Carolina. "I'm glad to see DISA acting this proactively... this sounds very promising."

The Graphical Communication Association Research Institute and the Data Interchange Standards Association, both in Alexandria, Virginia, can be reached at http://www.gca.org/ and http://www.disa.org/, respectively.

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