High-Tech Giants Partner on B2B Web Directory

A consortium of 36 of the Web’s biggest companies — led by IBM, Ariba, and Microsoft — announced plans Wednesday to create an online business directory that will make business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce simpler and more efficient.

According to the companies, the new standard, called Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI), will be more than an online phone book. In addition to basic company information, it will allow businesses to list their products and services and important technical information about the formats, standards, and technologies that a company uses in conducting online business.

“The adoption of e-business has once again shown us the importance of a common infrastructure in any commerce model,” said Daryl Plummer, group vice president of Internet and e-business technologies at Gartner Group. “In the e-business world where multiple businesses and multiple marketplaces are trying to interact, a mechanism to locate software services and share those services must exist,” Plummer added.

Other companies backing the UDDI project include Andersen Consulting, Commerce One, American Express, Sun Microsystems, Dell Computer Corporation, Nortel Networks, the Internet Capital Group, and Sabre Holding Company.

Free To Use

Larger than any previously attempted Internet directory, the UDDI project will provide a central registry for businesses in any location and industry.

Companies wishing to participate in the UDDI registry will be required to register and provide company information. Once registered, would-be business partners will be able to locate businesses using the directory’s sophisticated search engine, based on parameters from geographic location to business category, service details, and technical product specifications. Both registering and searching the UDDI will be free.

The creators of UDDI also tout its ability to level the playing field, allowing smaller companies to compete with larger, more established businesses.

“With UDDI, your choices won’t be limited to the companies that you have heard about,” said Mike Gioja, vice president of Operations at Internet Capital Group, which has built a network of more than 70 partner companies focused exclusively on e-commerce. “If you are a tiny company located in a village in France, taking advantage of UDDI means that if someone is looking for a service you offer, your company is just as likely to come up as a huge global corporation with offices in dozens of countries.”

Open Standard

The UDDI Project is a platform-neutral set of specifications built on core Internet standards, including TCP/IP, HTML and XML, language, object model, business application or marketplace.

“Sun has always worked to help establish and support open, standards-based technologies that facilitate the growth of network-based applications, and we see UDDI as an important project to establish a registry framework for business-to-business e-commerce,” said George Paolini, vice president, Java Community Development, Sun Microsystems.

The open draft of the UDDI specification is currently posted online, while the final specifications will be available shortly after public comments and feedback are incorporated. The companies involved say that they plan to transition the specifications to an industry standard body in the next 18 months.

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