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.
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.
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
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.