Internet calendaring next protocol push

Netscape and a group of industry heavyweights are preparing a united front on a set of Internet calendaring protocols that the companies will soon submit to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), sources say.

Netscape and a group of industry heavyweights are preparing a united front on a set of Internet calendaring protocols that the companies will soon submit to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), sources say.

The Internet Calendaring Summit, set for today at Netscape's Mountain View, California, headquarters, will include representatives from Apple, FTP Software, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lotus, Netscape, Novell, Software.com, Starfish Software, TeamWare and other companies. Microsoft has also been invited to the summit.

Lotus posted its proposed Internet Calendaring Access Protocol, announced in April at PC Expo, to its Web site on last week, marking the first step of the procedure for getting it accepted by the IETF. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based subsidiary of IBM hopes to garner the support of vendors for the standard during the summit.

The Internet Calendaring Summit marks the second multivendor effort led by Netscape. Netscape and 40 other companies have already united behind another Internet standards effort, the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol announced in April.

Industry observers agree that these Internet calendaring protocols are a step in the right direction. "Calendaring and scheduling is one of the standard functions for groupware or collaboration software, such as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes," says Ira Machefsky, an analyst at Giga Information Group, in Santa Clara, California. "It's a feature that if you don't have it, you don't have a complete groupware suite," Machefsky says.

The need to enter the groupware space may be contributing to Netscape's interest in a standard Internet protocol. With such a standard in place, Netscape could create its own product -- perhaps tied to its e-mail server -- that would work with its line of intranet servers, according to Machefsky.

Other calendar specifications that need a protocol and are up for review by the group of vendors include Calendar/Event Data Representation (CEDR) and Calendar Interchange Protocol (CIP). CEDR is intended to give users the ability to drag and drop calendar objects between applications, to send calendar objects to others via email, or to publish events on the World Wide Web in a standard format.

Versit's vCalendar specification, along with a standardised Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions type, has been suggested as a candidate for CEDR, according to an internal memo about the summit at Netscape. CIP defines a server-to-server protocol for servers to exchange calendar information, letting one server obtain calendar free/busy information from another vendor's server over the network, so users can treat a group of heterogeneous servers as a single integrated unit.

A third phase of the protocol work would define client-to-server standards, letting any client access any server.

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