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XML standards contest heats up

While many vendors and analysts bemoan the sometimes-testy competition between XML standards bodies, especially the W3C and OASIS, James Phillips sees it as a potential positive.

Phillips, chief strategist and senior vice president at Actional Corp. (www.actional.com), a Mountain View, Calif.-based maker of Web services management tools, compares competition among standards bodies to competition among vendors. And as with any competition in the marketplace, he argues that it can result in technical innovations and better service.

If Tim Berners-Lee, director of the W3C, criticizes OASIS for being too quick to push standards through its process and OASIS members complain that the W3C process takes too long, that debate may actually be healthy, Philips contends.

"I think what ends up happening, like in any competitive environment, is that you've got two organizations that are competing for business," Philips told XML Report. "They're competing for people to come and use their process and organizations to get the standards. Then they're naturally going to put pressure on each other and ensure that the processes are more efficient or made more efficient, just like in a marketplace where you have two vendors competing. They are going to be pressured to improve. And I would view it probably as a positive and hopefully the outcome is process improvement."

Nor does Philips, who serves on the international advisory board for Web Services Journal, see a problem with competing organizations owning the various standards vendors need to deploy for Web services. For example, of the three key Web services standards, the W3C owns SOAP and WSDL, but OASIS has taken over UDDI.

"It doesn't strike me as too odd that a couple of the Web services-specific standards have been ratified through a process in one body and others are now coming out of a process in a new body," he said.

Philips pointed out that there is nothing new in this as some of the original Internet standards, including HTTP, came from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

"There are many standards organizations in the world and they all, from time to time, have had various focuses -- changes in the processes that they use to get to standards," he said. "I think the important thing about a standards organization is that it is a forum to get people together, to have a process for communicating and getting to the best standard you can to address a certain technology or need in a marketplace. I don't think it matters what the name is on the forum as long as there is good vendor and customer participation, and as long as there is a good process for taking feedback and producing outcome to a standard that has wide input and that people agree on."

For more information on the standards organizations mentioned in this article:

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), www.w3.org

Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), www.oasis-open.org

Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), www.ietf.org/overview.html

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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