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Oracle joins effort to build e-business directory

The software maker announces it has joined an effort led by Microsoft, IBM and Ariba to create a Web directory that will allow businesses to find one another online.

Oracle on Thursday announced it has joined an effort led by Microsoft, IBM and Ariba to create a Web directory that will allow businesses to find one another online.

Oracle was previously the largest software maker absent from the project, which now has about 130 supporters. Oracle executives said it joined the project after Ariba, IBM and Microsoft made the process to create the technology less proprietary.

The trio of companies in September proposed a Web standard and a new initiative that lets businesses register in an online directory aimed at helping companies advertise their services so they can find one another to conduct Web transactions.

The project, which began with three dozen supporters, has signed on 130 companies, including Dell Computer, Intel, Nortel Networks, Sun Microsystems, Andersen Consulting and Ford Motor.

Before joining the effort last month, Hewlett-Packard executives said they also balked at joining the effort because Ariba, IBM and Microsoft had veto power over the process of creating the Web standard and the online directory. The three companies then opened up the decision-making process to include more companies, resulting in HP and now Oracle joining the effort.

"They wanted us to get involved, but we had concerns regarding the openness of the process," said John Magee, Oracle's senior director of platform marketing. "We now feel comfortable joining."

Oracle was originally skeptical of the project because Microsoft and IBM had veto power, Magee said, even though they didn't sell e-business applications, where the Web standard and online directory comes into play. The proposed standard will allow businesses to describe the services they offer and allow those services to be located by other businesses using the online directory.

Oracle sells a suite of e-business applications, including software that automates a company's financial, human resources and manufacturing operations as well as its sales, marketing and customer service activities.

Eric Buatois, general manger of strategy and marketing for HP's software and solutions organization, said it was important for the database giant to join the project. "It means a lot because Oracle is a key player in the e-business space, and for the standard to be established, we need all the big names of e-business," he said.

The coalition of companies expects to propose a standard to an industry group later next year.

The public test version of the online directory is currently hosted on Microsoft's, IBM's and Ariba's Web sites, all connected to one another. Businesses can register with the online directory by entering any of the three companies' Web sites.

The final version of the directory--officially called the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration Business Registry--is expected to be completed by early next year. Other companies supporting the effort are expected to host the registry in the future.

News.com's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.