Japanese telecommunications giant NTT this week became the first company that doesn't make software to join an effort to build a public Web services directory that lets businesses list and find online services.
NTT plans to launch an online directory that conforms to a budding Web services specification called Universal Description, Discovery and Integration ( UDDI).
The directory is an online Yellow Pages that will, in theory, help companies advertise their Web services and find other Web services providers so they can conduct business online. For example, a home improvement retailer could use a UDDI-based service that finds light-switch suppliers and ranks them according to pricing and availability of products.
Proponents say UDDI could do for Web services what search engines such as Yahoo! did for the Internet in the mid-1990s: provide a way for people to find what they need amid a sea of unorganised information.
NTT will become the fifth company to join the effort and the first telecommunications company to host the UDDI directory.
The company joins Microsoft, IBM, SAP and Hewlett-Packard, which already maintain public Web sites that host the directory. Because all five companies' Web sites will be connected, businesses will be able to search and register with the Web directory by entering any of the sites.
"This is a big step for UDDI," said Rod Smith, vice president of the emerging technology software group at IBM. "When we invented it, we knew it would take a while to evolve into business models. It's not just North America now. When we have talked about this technology in Asia and Europe, everybody wants it. They want to get it right away."
The NTT directory is expected to launch early this year.
The UDDI specification is the brainchild of IBM, Microsoft and Ariba and is supported by more than 220 companies, including Oracle, Intel, Sun Microsystems, Ford Motor and Nortel Networks.
UDDI is among four specifications gaining importance as the concept of Web services becomes more widespread. The others are Extensible Markup Language (XML), Simple Object Access Protocol (Soap) and Web Services Description Language (WSDL).
To understand how these protocols work together, imagine an ordinary phone call. In Web services parlance, XML represents the conversation, Soap describes the rules for how to call someone, and UDDI is the phone book. WSDL describes what the phone call is about and how you can participate.
The public online directory, which originally launched this spring, was created by the companies using the UDDI specification. Businesses can also create private UDDI directories so they can do business with their own customers and partners. Many analysts and early Web services participants see UDDI being used in this way, at least initially
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