As explained by CNET's Martin LaMonica, UBL is meant to make it easier to turn paper records into electronic ones and, ultimately, easier to share documents, such as purchase orders, between organizations doing business online.
So why is this particular TLA (three-letter acronym) so important, and maybe even more important than the other ingredients in the alphabet soup we call Web services?
Well, some proponents, including Jon Bosak, distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems and a founder of XML, says UBL "could take over the world." As Bosak explains in a recent interview on Sun's "Contrarian Minds" Website, "the dirty little secret of electronic commerce is that it's not nearly as automatic as many people think.... In many cases, it's little more efficient than doing business by fax." That's because most e-commerce transactions are either handled by old-fashioned proprietary EDI networks, or jury-rigged Internet systems.
UBL simply automates purchase orders and invoices -- nothing more, nothing less, Bosak says. Keep in mind that while vertical industry groups have adopted their own dialects for XML, it's still difficult to get these dialects to talk to each other. UBL reaches across all these industries.
So now a chipmaker can more easily exchange invoices with a car manufacturer, and install even more of those infernal computerized components in our automobiles that cost an arm and a leg to fix. Sounds like progress to me.