CBL: Ecommerce Componentry

August 18, 1999

Dale Dougherty

A Conversation about CBL with Bob Glushko of Commerce One

CBL is not the Canadian Basketball League. It is the Common Business Library, an effort to identify the semantic building blocks of XML document types used in ecommerce. CBL defines in an XML syntax for elements such as date/time, measurement, and currency. CBL is but one more example where XML forms the basis for standardizing ecommerce. Yet CBL is also an example of XML's biggest challenge: to find a flexible yet formal way to make agreements about the contents of any document exchanged by two parties.

CBL was first a research project at Veo Systems, a startup founded by Dr. Jay (Marty) Tenenbaum who launched CommerceNet. Earlier this year, Veo Systems was acquired by Commerce One, which then became a public company in July. Specializing in business-to-business ecomerce, Commerce One has focused on electronic procurement applications. Inside a company, Commerce One can automate and coordinate purchasing (the buying of computers, travel services, paper, etc.) across different departments and sites. Beyond the company, Commerce One works to link buyers and suppliers together to form real-time trading communities. An example of such a community is the Commerce One site, In many ways, Commerce One is taking advantage of the Web and the emergence of open standards to change the way goods are bought and sold within and among corporations.

In late July, a new version of CBL was announced that reflects the experience and interests of Commerce One. It incorporates EDI semantics based on EDIFACT. (If you are trying to understand how XML and EDI are working together, please read Alan Kotok's "XML and EDI: Lessons Learned and Baggage Left Behind.")

In this conversation with Bob Glushko, who came to CommerceOne from Veo, we talk about the development of CBL as a set of "horizontal" semantics that can be used across vertical industries. We talk about how to balance the need for standards that promote interoperability along with each organization's need to customize

 Pix of Bruce Sharpe

Dr. Robert J. Glushko, Director of Advanced Technology,
Commerce One, Inc.

Click to LISTEN to Interview (Length: 14:47)

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