Last week Tim Bray mentioned the May 1st release of UBL 1.0, which he defines as “… a set of general-purpose XML-encoded business documents: orders, acknowledgments, packing slips, invoices, receipts.” He goes on to compare UBL to HTML, saying that because it (UBL) is a generic format rather than a format made for a particular industry (just like HTML was a generic, simpler subset of SGML), it has a chance to become the HTML of the business document world (read: explosive growth, eventual ubitquity). Tim quotes an email from Jon Bosak on some of the other reasons for the creation of UBL:
· Developing and maintaining multiple versions of common business documents like purchase orders and invoices is a major duplication of effort.
· Creating and maintaining multiple adapters to enable trading relationships across domain boundaries is an even greater effort.
· The existence of multiple XML formats makes it much harder to integrate XML business messages with back-office systems.
· The need to support an arbitrary number of XML formats makes tools more expensive and trained workers harder to find.
My current project, which should be released soon, utilizes software from many different companies: tax software, credit card software, shipping rate software, custom software written by the company that manages the distribution of product, etc.. Obviously having a single format to work with would decrease the time I spend a) digging through each companies documentation trying to understand their format and b) wiring up the custom documents for each format, so I’m definitely looking forward to the day when I can use UBL.
For anyone interested, it looks like there is a smattering of support for UBL out there in the Java world: http://softml.net/jedi/ubl/sw/java/, https://jwsdp.dev.java.net/ubl/, http://www.sys-con.com/story/?storyid=37553&DE=1. For further information regarding UBL, see the OASIS UBL TC web page at: