eCo Specification Bridges E-commerce Language Barrier

  • Written By: D. Geller
  • Published: December 8 1999

Event Summary

CommerceNet, an industry working group focused on E-commerce, has issued a specification for a protocol that can be used to increase interoperability between E-commerce partners. The specification, dubbed eCo, defines the ways that businesses post information about themselves. Using eCo, a business could post a description of itself in a standard form that could be found via searching, both by people and by intelligent agents. Information posted in eCo format will allow searchers to find companies, and will then enable communications between the companies.

CommerceNet developed eCo to allow businesses to find each other and to determine which E-commerce standards each supports. One of the main parts of eCo is the architecture, which offers a general way to describe and characterize online marketplaces, and to let them work together in spite of the differing technologies they may be using. Different levels of eCo's seven-layer architecture specify details of what information each company requires and provides for electronic transactions. eCo supports a number of low-level languages such as OFX, OBI and XML. There is also a set of eCo Semantic Guidelines that describe ways to build XML data elements and business documents.

Market Impact

We believe that eCo is at least six to nine months ahead of the market, although procurement vendor CommerceOne has developed a forms library called CBL (Common Business Library) 2 which is based on the eCo Semantic Guidelines. CommerceOne is a primary supporter of CommerceNet. eCo, like CBL, derives from work of Veo Systems, a company spun off from CommerceNet in 1997 and acquired by CommerceOne in 1999.

User Recommendations

While eCo represents a significant understanding of the information that companies will need to exchange during an e-Commerce transaction, at this time it is of limited interest to companies seeking to engage in E-commerce. The standards wars between E-commerce vendors (See TEC News Analysis article: "Ariba Successes Highlight Standards Wars" August 13th, 1999) have a long way to go before winners and losers appear. There will be many tools and technologies in the next few years (See TEC News Analysis article: "New Venture Fund to Propel XML" October 13th, 1999)to smooth electronic communications between buyers and sellers. Any decision on software packages at this time should be made on the fit to your needs and, in the case of E-procurement in particular, the kind of trading partners you will be able to reach.

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