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Firms sign on to e-commerce XML standard

The standard provides a common platform for exchanging catalog content and transaction data.

Some 40 companies are lining up behind a new protocol designed to facilitate commerce over the Internet by standardizing how catalog content and purchasing data are exchanged.

Called Commerce XML or cXML, the new protocol being pushed by software vendor Ariba Technologies is based on eXtensible Markup Language [XML], a standard of the World Wide Web Consortium.

"This initiative is focused on solving real-world business problems," said Skip Folds, an executive at Ariba. "cXML will help build open trading communities across industries. Buyers and sellers can reduce online business costs by facilitating exchange of content and transactions over the Internet."

cXML is one of several efforts to create e-commerce standards so information can be exchanged online in common formats, rather than setting up unique formats between each different company. Many companies involved in Internet commerce see XML as a strong foundation to build a variety of e-commerce protocols.

Ariba, which is spearheading the cXML effort, says a pilot test is scheduled to begin next month, when a draft version of the specification also will be published.

Today's cXML announcement is centered around Ariba, but the company hopes to draw in competitors too, including CommerceOne. CommerceOne, which offers a service to link business-to-business buyers and sellers, has emphasized XML in its strategy, buying XML-for-commerce firm Veo Systems on January 19.

In addition, Vignette, which markets Internet publishing software, is backing both cXML and its own ICE protocol, for Information & Content Exchange.

"We're excited because cXML brings transaction data to ICE-based networks," said Brad Husick, Vignette's vice president of syndication networks.

Ariba has enlisted buying organizations, suppliers, and technology providers in its cXML alliance. Technology firms backing the initiative include Sterling Commerce, Ironside Technology, Saqqara, Poet Software, Extricity Software, and InterWorld.

Suppliers include barnesandnoble.com, BT Office Products International, Chemdex, Compucom, ComputerLiteracy.com, Cort Furniture Rental, Harbinger, Office Depot, and Staples.