XML 5: What's the story with OASIS? The XML champion examined.

There's no "Definitely Maybe" about it. OASIS will do everything it can to make XML your markup of choice

All emerging standards need their champions. OASIS, the Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards is a non-profit, international consortium of major names in the IT industry. Its work is to accelerate the adoption of platform independent formats based on public standards, and main love is the support of structured information processing standards, most notably HTML, SGML, and of course, XML.

Members of OASIS are a mixture of providers and users, corporations and individuals, and include such notable names as Microsoft, IBM, Corel, Informix, Reuters, Sun, Xerox, and SAS to name a very few. The idea behind the consortium is to provide an open forum for members to discuss their needs, suggestions for improved interoperability and so on. OASIS complements standards bodies -- most noticeably XML's case, the W3C -- attempting to increase the penetration of technology, and making real-world adoption easier.

OASIS has had an extremely busy late 1999, as XML became more and more prevalent across the Web. These are just a few recent actions by the group.

On October 6th, OASIS appointed Pam Gennusa, former chair of XML Europe to support European OASIS members. Based in London, this is a major step forward in supporting UK XML users, and also gives the consortium a higher-profile when battling for interoperability issues this side of the pond. Gennusa claimed that as a European user herself, she could better understand the importance of supporting XML users here.

With such high profile members, OASIS is perfectly positioned to press the cause of XML at the very highest levels. On September 15th, OASIS joined forces with the United Nations body for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business to launch a project to standardise XML specs in business. UN/CEFACT is the United Nations body that covers policy in ebusiness, and the alliance is a major coup for XML adoption. Widespread adoption and use of XML by businesses once targeted for high-end SGML adoption is great news for the average web author that wants to build documents in a truly universal language. The initiative looks set to develop an international framework that will enable XML to be used in a consistent way for the exchange of all electronic business data. Industry groups have been braced for an initial 18-month project. Any results will be posted in the public domain on XML.org and unece.org/CEFACT.

Bill Smith of Sun, and president of OASIS said of the initiative: "To be effective for global business, it is vital that XML specifications are based on a common framework. That framework does not exist today and, consequently, there are many, often competing efforts underway worldwide. This new initiative will end the confusion and duplication of effort that currently exists." Ray Walker, chairman of the UN/CEFACT steering group believes that in the long term the plan will contribute to the growth of world trade, thanks to a combination of more efficient processing, more accurate web searching and more flexible linking.

The most recent OASIS activities have focused on accommodating the huge surge in adoption of XML of late. Norbert Mikula, OASIS chief technical officer came over to London in October and spoke to a representative European audience about the significance of XML registries and repositories in a presentation at XML One Europe. He believes that it is vital to establish open, vendor-neutral information stores for XML to flourish.

And on October 6th membership in OASIS reached an all-time high with the admission of Corel, Extricity Software, Keyfile and XMLSolutions. This underlines the fact that although XML has been building as a standard since the 1.0 spec was first proposed back in 1996, we're still very much at early stage in its development and acceptance, with many possibilities as yet unexplored due to issues of interoperability that although more easily overcome with XML than is usual with any new standard, are still being met. OASIS continues to grow and add support to the XML community, but feels that the recent upturn in its membership can partly be attributed to more companies seeking an independent vendor-neutral forum for companies, individuals and even competitors to come together to hammer out standard acceptance.

As Derek Burney, executive vice president for Corel recently said: "Developing open, vendor neutral standards for structured information is the most important contribution that today's computer professionals can make to ensure the continued evolutionary pace of information technology.


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