American Express is spearheading a group seeking to establish a standard for ordering goods over the Internet.
Called the Internet Purchasing Roundtable, the group has published a specification which it hopes will make it easier for corporates to order and process low-cost, high volume items, such as office supplies, PCs and cellular phones, over the Internet.
The OBI (Open Buying on the Internet) spec is based on existing protocols such as EDI (Electronic data interchange) and will work alongside SET, the new Secure Electronic Transactions protocol for secure credit card purchases over the Internet. It was largely developed by American Express, together with US company SupplyWorks.
The group was formed last October with the intention of providing easy-to-use, open standards-based Internet purchasing solutions. It has since attracted 16 members, including Ford, General Electric and Apple.
Oracle and Microsoft also gave their assistance in the development of the spec and have pledged their support for it.
Thayer Stewart, American Express vice president of marketing, said: "The single most important barrier to Internet business-to-business commerce is the lack of interoperability. The various technology solutions cannot communicate with each other, companies buy or build redundant systems and gridlock has ensued."
David Rice, purchasing supply manager at BASF, another group member, said: "The idea of business-to-business Internet commerce appealed to us but we were not satisfied with the systems that were available. We were looking for an open, off-the-shelf system that would give us the flexibility to conduct business with any chosen supplier. The interoperability just wasn't there."
Following the publication of the OBI last week the Roundtable will transform itself into a user group. Called the OBI Consortium, the non-profit making group will focus on supporting and improving the spec, as well as investigating the development of other Internet standards.
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