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Internet Standards Effort Hits Snag

September 3, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ A much-touted industry effort to develop a common standard to let technology companies freely exchange data with other businesses across the Internet has hit an unexpected snag due to conflicting corporate agendas.

A computer industry group said Friday it had rejected a proposed version of the standard over concerns it skewed toward U.S. companies and will prevent European companies from participating.

One worry of the Computing Technology Industry Association is the standard would enable businesses to exchange personal data about their consumers, such as buying habits. This would violate of European government privacy rules, which are stricter than those in the U.S.

The rejection is expected to delay the release of the standards to computer and software makers and distributors, which had been expected next February.

``It’s a bump in the road,″ said Kathey Hale, an analyst with the Dataquest high-tech research firm. ``I’m surprised there was such a lack of communication here.″

The standards-setting group, called RosettaNet, was launched with much ballyhoo in June to harness the XML software language to speed the transmission of data across electronic networks linking computer and software makers, parts suppliers and distributors.

Other industries, such as auto companies, also are working on standards for XML, or extensible markup language. XML is a way to tag electronic information with identifying codes so that businesses can exchange information without worrying about the need to reformat data so that it can be retrieved and viewed by others.

For example, a business can easily send orders to a parts supplier across the Web without paying big consulting fees to an outside company to set up an electronic network.

The technology industry is being closely watched by XML supporters because it is a driving force behind international standards.

A phone message left with Fadi Chehade, executive director of the RosettaNet group, was not returned. A RosettaNet spokeswoman said he wasn’t available.

In addition to the concern over European privacy standards, another worry is the standard would require companies using it to have an identifying code issued by the Dun & Bradstreet financial information firm. Most U.S. companies have such codes, though European companies do not.

``Companies in Europe wouldn’t use the standard at all,″ said Nicole Shelley, senior director of electronic commerce standards for the CTIA, based outside Chicago and made up of 7,500 U.S. and Europe technology companies.

Shelley said as a result of its concerns, its members would not launch tests of the standards over the next several months.

The group’s rejection of the proposal ``is going to delay″ the standards, she said. ``The smaller and larger players are saying they can’t implement these standards.″

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