Electronic marketplaces and e-exchanges could be a thing of the past with the development of an online business directory, which allows companies to find business partners globally and automate the conduct of e-business.
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The Universal Business Registry, which will be tested next month, aims to break down the barriers of existing marketplaces, which are restricted to sectors.
The registry will be based on the Universal Description Discovery and Integration (UDDI) protocol, which is backed by a consortium of 36 IT suppliers including IBM, Microsoft and Ariba.
UDDI uses the data language XML and will allow companies to describe their products and services.
According to the consortium, it will also incorporate Simple Object Access Protocol to allow firms' e-business systems to communicate without needing technical intervention in the integration process. So a buyer's purchasing software will work with the seller's fulfilment systems, making transactions simpler and cheaper.
Meta Group analyst Jeff Mann said the system could allow direct peer-to-peer dealing between business partners without the intervention of an e-marketplace.
"It's definitely a good idea as it is aiming at a narrow enough information space to be viable," he said. "However, it could get bogged down with standards issues."
Other companies backing the initiative include Sun Microsystems, Nortel, Dell, Compaq, Fujitsu, SAP, Commerce One, i2, American Express, Merrill Lynch and Andersen Consulting.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Oracle are working on a rival standard using HP's E-speak technology, the code of which is on the Internet. The consortium said control of UDDIwill be handed to a standards body in two years.