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Microsoft, others aim for Net communication standard

Microsoft and 10 other firms have submitted an Internet communications technology called Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) to a Web standards body.

Microsoft and 10 other firms have submitted an Internet communications technology to a Web standards body.

The technology, called Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), lets companies link their computing systems over the Net and conduct e-commerce. It is based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), a Web standard for data exchange.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) will consider SOAP and 11 similar communications protocols before determining the requirements for XML protocols standards, according to W3C spokeswoman Janet Daly.

The W3C will host a panel discussion next week on the issue, but no immediate decisions are expected. The group is likely to begin the standards process by listing the features it wants in an XML-based communications protocol, Daly said.

The SOAP technology is intended to solve a dilemma faced by businesses over competing programming models. Most software developers have settled on two ways to write business software. Microsoft supports a model that steers businesses to use its dominant Windows operating system. Sun Microsystems, Oracle, IBM and dozens of others support their own proprietary model based on the Java programming language and Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), two tightly integrated technologies.

SOAP would serve as a common communications format that would link the various programming models together, allowing businesses with different computing systems to connect and conduct trades online, regardless of the model they use.

Ten companies joined Microsoft in submitting SOAP version 1.1 to the W3C, including Ariba, Commerce One, Compaq Computer, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and SAP.

Microsoft last year submitted an early version of SOAP to the Internet Engineering Task Force for industry review. But the group of SOAP supporters believes the W3C is a more appropriate standards group because XML is Web-based technology, a Microsoft executive said.

While the first version of SOAP was developed mostly by Microsoft, the newest version of SOAP includes contributions by IBM and subsidiary Lotus Development.