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Web business standard gets thumbs up

The ratification of Universal Business Language could make it easier for big companies to share documents.

A Web standards body has published a series of definitions that could make it easier for big companies to share business documents.

The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, or OASIS, on Monday gave final approval to a specification called Universal Business Language (UBL) version 1.0, a standardized document format.

UBL is meant to make it easier to turn paper records into electronic ones and, ultimately, easier to share documents, such as purchase orders, between organizations doing business online. UBL is designed to work with (XML) and technical standards from OASIS called ebXML, which include a series of protocols for transporting information over the Internet.

OASIS is an industry standards group whose members include technology providers such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Microsoft, as well as companies using XML for business applications, such as Visa and Wells Fargo Bank.

The ratification of UBL version 1.0 shows that the specifications, originally proposed in January of last year, are accepted by companies that back the ebXML system. The UBL document formats, in conjunction with ebXML protocols, are meant to provide a standardized, lower-cost alternative to older, traditional electronic commerce systems, such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

OASIS is one of a handful of organizations that is active in establishing XML formats for exchanging data and processing between companies. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is also involved in establishing Web services standards, and the Web services interoperability organization (WS-I), which calls itself a "standards integration" organization, was formed several years ago to ensure that the many Web services standards interoperate as expected.