OASIS Approves First International Dictionary for UBL

The Universal Business Language (UBL) is on its way to becoming truer to its name. The English-only standard for XML business documents in B2B applications, approved last November by the OASIS standards consortium, has been translated into four new languages.

OASIS last week approved the first edition of the UBL 1.0 International Data Dictionary (IDD), which comprises over 600 business data definitions from the UBL 1.0 schema, combined with translations of the definitions into Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.

The purpose of UBL is to unify the various business “dialects” of XML used in electronic commerce. UBL standardizes the XML format of basic business documents, making purchase orders, invoices and other business forms--the docs used in the “order-to-invoice process”--readable by compliant XML applications for e-business transactions.

The new dictionaries contain both “normative” and “non-normative” definitions, explains Jon Bosak, editor and chair of the UBL technical committee. The 600 business data definitions from the UBL 1.0 schema are standards (normative), but the helpful translations of English terms--say “line item”--into the various languages are not yet standards (non-normative).

“In standard work, we try to distinguish between the two,” Bosak tells Programming Trends, “because when we say that something is normative--a standard--we’re making a kind of guarantee.”

Bosak, who is a distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems, has been called the “father of XML,” because of his role as organizer of the working group that created XML.

Bosak is excited about the prospects of the IDD as a vehicle for global UBL deployment, but the idea for the project didn’t come from OASIS, he says. “They came to us,” he says. “Business groups from Japan, China, Korea and Spain came to us about a year ago, and they provided the impetus and the people.

UBL defines a royalty-free library of standard electronic XML business documents, including Order, Order Response, Order Response Simple, Order Change, Order Cancellation, Dispatch Advice, Receipt Advice and Invoice. Together, they can be used to implement a generic buy/sell relationship or supply chain whose components fit existing trade agreements and are immediately understandable by workers in business, supply-chain management (SCM), Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), accounting, customs, taxation and shipping. UBL is designed to plug directly into existing business, legal, auditing and records management practices.

The four languages currently translated in the UBL IDD are the just beginning, Bosak says. Next up: Danish. “This isn’t determined by us,” he says, “so from here on it’s going to get kind of random.”

As with all UBL specifications, the IDD is freely available under terms of the OASIS copyright. Copies of the UBL 1.0 IDD are available in Excel and OpenOffice formats at the following locations:

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].