In the complex and fragmented world of the Internet, a simple product or service search can often turn up thousands of links that have little to do with what is actually sought. For businesses looking for partners or suppliers, the lack of efficient catalogues can lead to even greater headaches as opportunities slip by.
With this in mind, Ariba, Microsoft and IBM on Wednesday were joined by several key players in the e-commerce world to design a type of standardised electronic Yellow Pages that describes and categorises corporations throughout the world. While the trio of Ariba, Microsoft, and IBM currently lead the project's development, around 36 other vendors have agreed to act as advisors and developers of the technology.
Ariba, Microsoft, and IBM set a September target date for the availability of an Internet-based registry of companies using what they have called the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) standard. The UDDI standard should create a way for companies in the business-to-business marketplace to find out what types of commerce other companies conduct and what those companies use as their protocol for transactions and communications.
While the three tech giants initiated the project, companies around the globe will be able to provide data and information for the registry at no charge. The first implementation slated for this month will contain basic categorisation and service listings.
Other versions of the registry are scheduled to appear in March of 2001 and then December of 2001, with more complex features added for varying types B2B operations at each step. After 18 months, the project will move into the hands of a yet unnamed standards body.
At the moment, Ariba, Microsoft, and IBM said the UDDI system contains three types of information, divided into what they refer to as white, yellow and green pages, officials from the companies said, speaking at a press conference here Wednesday to launch the project.
The White Pages will contain business names, descriptions of the type of business, and other information regarding what kinds of services a vendor uses and also what technology they can respond to. The Yellow Pages section adopts current government codes for tagging types of business operations as well as international and technology-based naming protocols.
In addition, the Yellow Pages arranges companies by geographical location. The Green Pages should provide more specific information on what types of documents a company can receive, the entry points for transactions, and the technology they currently interact with and support.
"We don't want to compete on standards," said Larry Mueller, president and chief operating officer for Ariba.
Ariba spearheaded the project and will offer resources, along with IBM and Microsoft, for the initial nodes, or data collection points, that will serve as the backbone for the system. Other vendors including American Express, Compaq Computer, SAP, Dell Computer, Nortel Networks, and Andersen Consulting will aid the development of the fledgling project, helping to work through bugs of the proposed open standard.
Over the next 18 months, the partners will try to expand the number of categories and add more complete features to help the complicated B2B transaction ladder.
Suggestions include customising the categorisation features and accommodating the needs of large corporations with a variety of business units focused on different goals. In addition, a number of vendors expressed interest in building upon the standard as it progresses and developing registries with different features that lie on top of UDDI.