IETF answers call for White Pages

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is being spurred into action to build a standard way to present White Pages directory information across the Internet. An IETF Internet White Pages standard could be in place within six months if development work goes smoothly, participants in the project said.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is being spurred into action to build a standard way to present White Pages directory information across the Internet.

An IETF Internet White Pages standard could be in place within six months if development work goes smoothly, participants in the project said.

The IETF, prompted by independent work begun last year by the Network Applications Consortium, or NAC, to build its own specification in the absence of IETF directory activity, has revived its plan to develop an Internet White Pages specification.

The IETF first considered a plan to develop an Internet White Pages several years ago, but the project stalled. The White Pages are designed to standardise the way that information is presented in Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directories; LDAP itself defines only how information should be requested and updated. The IETF is about to publish its revisions to Version 3 of LDAP.

The White Pages would define a consistent look and feel for displaying information such as email addresses, URLs, and phone numbers.

Tony Genovese, program manager with Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, is one of the authors of the IETF's new White Pages specification, but he was also involved in the development of the Lightweight Internet Person Schema (LIPS), which is based on the NAC's work. Genovese says LIPS was originally conceived because vendors "felt that the IETF wasn't moving fast enough" toward its own White Pages standard. Now, however, the IETF "has solidified its feelings," he says, and it is in a position to take up the reins again.

Genovese said he would be happy if LIPS were folded into the White Pages, adding that the two proposals have much in common.

"If you look at both drafts," Genovese says, "they're within 80% of each other."

This view was echoed by Frank Chen, product manager of directories at Netscape, in Mountain View, California, who says he would welcome a move to continue development within the IETF, but warns that the NAC's ownership of the LIPS specification could cause problems.

A final version of LDAP 3 should be published around the end of this quarter or at the start of the next, according to Chen. It had been expected sooner, but an earlier draft version was revised because the IETF was worried that it was getting too bogged down with complexity.

In its current form, LDAP 3 retains the core functionality of the earlier draft version, but it does not have some features that would have tied it more closely to the X.500 Directory Access Protocol on which LDAP is based. The features that have made it through include support for referral of clients to alternative servers, support for international character sets, incorporation of the Secure Sockets Layer and Simple Authentication Security Layer standards, and an extensibility mechanism to let LDAP be modified more easily in the future.

The IETF can be reached at http://www.ietf.org.

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