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Solution to Web searching: Surfing the Web in the business world can be a daunting task.

Though I have developed a nervous twitch reaction to any utterances from world-dominant Microsoft, a recent development caused me to go digging for more information, mostly because it involved other partners such as IBM, Sun Microsystems and more than 40 other companies which are not exactly under the, controlling influence of Bill least as far as I know.

The announcement, last June, heralded the development of a new B2B Internet standard with yet another acronym, UDDI or "Universal Description, Discovery and Integration" and the more I read, the better it sounded.

First the problem...

Chris Kurt, Microsoft's manager for its part in UDDI development said, "The Web is broken when its comes to searching. Searching is based on crawling Web sites and matching text to see if they're the same. You don't know what's available in a Web site until you pull those pages because the information is hidden in a database behind the scenes. I believe every business in the world is going to be part of UDDI over time."

Under current Web conditions, it is a sometimes daunting task for a business to find and work with other companies: Searching out potential relationships is only the first obstacle because existing search engines were only designed to gather keyword data They do not sort beyond simple word matches. But even if one company does manage to find another like-minded entity, other problems arise with incompatibilities in computer platforms, software, time, distance, speed and language.

First and foremost, UDDI is a registry of global businesses. The database is not owned by anybody (including and especially Microsoft). It is a distributed service with' IBM and Microsoft operating the first two registry nodes with more to come in the near future. There is no cost to register a business and the service is designed to help applicants enter their information in a standardized manner useful to all other businesses using the system. Stored information includes the name and description of the business, contacts, Web sites and means of access. Using standardized templates makes it easy for any company to enter its information and ensure an accurate and functionally searchable database.

There are already lots of business databases, like Canada's Strategis service, so what makes UDDI different?

In two words, distributed computing.

Originally, it was thought the Web would allow "thin client" computing with the user having a simple Web-access machine and the software running invisibly on a remote server; a good idea which never quite happened. Instead, we've developed structurally reinforced desks to support monster computers and peripherals loaded with expensive software that has to be upgraded with every tweak of an operating system or advance in motherboard chips. This outcome did not exactly make Bill Gates unhappy or poor.

The new standards behind UDDI and SOAP (simple object access protocol) will allow software programs in simple computers to find and hook into other software scattered all over the Net so they will seamlessly compute together and all will be accessible from a range of devices such as PCs, laptops or cell-phones with users only paying for the services they actually use and then only for the time they use them.

A graphic designer, for instance, may only need a special application program once in a while. Under this system, the designer would find and have access, for a fee, to an unbelievable array of utilities which he could not possibly afford to own and maintain. Software makers like Microsoft win because they no longer have to bear the costs of physical distribution and marketing while enjoying a steady, predictable stream of rental revenue.

The same systems will make it easy for businesses to integrate procurement, invoicing, shipping, training and other services without having to worry about the compatibility of their computers or software.

There is no doubt that B2B uses for the Internet will grow at an astounding rate in the near future and the independent UDDI protocol may be the spark that lights the commercial flame.

Here is a starter selection of Web sites offering more information on UDDI as well as options for registering your business: - The official Web site for UDDI filled with background information and important links. - Microsoft's extensive UDDI Web site with a password-protected, no-charge data entry system for businesses to send their corporate information to the shared database. - The IBM UDDI site with information and business registry service. More friendly than the Microsoft site. A Web site devoted to UDDI database search techniques. - A Web site for software developers who want to get involved in the UDDI movement. - A working demonstration of a visual search of the UDDI database.

John Milne is the proprietor of All Outdoors Productions in North Bay.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Author:Milne, John
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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