A phone book, no matter how ingeniously designed, isnt any good if nobody uses it.
Microsoft is quite aware of this predicament, which faces the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration project. UDDI is a 9-month-old business-to-business Internet directory the company developed with IBM and other partners. Its backers promise that UDDI will become a sophisticated way for companies to find and connect with buyers online — in other words, a technology that will create the ultimate B2B e-marketplace. But currently, UDDI is still basically an experiment.
To stimulate adoption of UDDI, Microsoft last week teamed up with RealNames, a provider of keyword Web navigation services, to offer businesses "human-friendly" keywords to locate UDDI information. Microsoft also added a feature in Internet Explorer that lets users search for information in the UDDI directory using a RealNames keyword. For example, typing "UDDI Microsoft" into the IE address bar returns a list of all of Microsofts UDDI services.
"Weve taken UDDI information and made it available to anyone with a browser," said Chris Kurt, Microsoft group program manager for Web services and UDDI general program manager.
Microsoft hopes the agreement with RealNames bootstraps UDDI in another way: RealNames will give customers a free UDDI keyword when they register a Web keyword — which costs $50 per year. In addition, RealNames will let them publish their business information in Microsofts UDDI directory, which is cross-replicated with IBMs UDDI directory.
RealNames navigation technology should push UDDI, which also has the support of Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems, toward wider use. "What UDDI needs is some sort of universal discovery mechanism, and RealNames interfaces can provide that," said Michael Hoch, a senior analyst at Aberdeen Group.
But observers said its too soon to say when, or even if, the UDDI vision will be realized. Kurt is encouraged by the progress so far: "Its gone from an interesting idea that not many people have heard about to something central for exchanging [eXtensible Markup Language] data online."