Metadata and Electronic Document Management for Electronic Commerce

Standards for E-commerce

Tom Worthington

Version of 2 August 2008

This item on "Standards for E-commerce" is the third of a segment on"Metadata and Electronic Document Management for Electronic Commerce" first presented for the Australian National University course "Information Technology in Electronic Commerce" (COMP3410/COMP6341).

This document is intended to provide both for live group presentation and accompanying lecture notes for individual use. The Slides and these notes are provided in the one HTML document, using HTML Slidy.

E-document and E-commerce Standards

Metadata for managing documents tends to have a few dozen elements for each document. Most elements are text fields, rather than numeric values or qualified values. Metadata for electronic commerce uses more elements, more qualified and numeric values.


26. United Nations rules for Electronic Data Interchange For Administration, Commerce and Transport. They comprise a set of internationally agreed standards, directories and guidelines for the electronic interchange of structured data, and in particular that related to trade in goods and services between independent, computerized information systems.

27. Recommended within the framework of the United Nations, the rules are approved and published by UN/ECE in the (this) United Nations Trade Data Interchange Directory (UNTDID) and are maintained under agreed procedures.

From: "UN/EDIFACT Draft Directory", United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, (undated),

The United Nations agreed standards for world e-commerce called UN/EDIFACT. This is one of the two early internationally cited family of standards for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). The other standard is the USA's ANS X12 Syntax. In most cases the same metadata elements can be used with EDIFACT and ANS X12.


This code list is used by United States Government contracting and grant activities to indicate the data expressions that are contained herein. It is designed principally for use with Electronic Date Interchange (EDI) in either the American National Standard X12 syntax or the United Nations/Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transport (UN/EDIFACT) syntax. It may be used in other data systems as appropriate, to include as domain values for standard data schemes or as application data. ...

From: Federal Procurement Code List One (FP1), National Institute of Standards and Technology, 1998 (Revised: April 25, 2001), URL:
No longer on-line, copy at URL:

ANS X12 Example

BTA Small Disadvantaged Business Performing in the US
BTB Other Small Business Performing in the US
BTC Large Business Performing in the US
BTD Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act (JWOD) Participating Nonprofit Agencies
BTF Hospital
BTL Foreign Concern/Entity ...

From: Federal Procurement Code List One (FP1), National Institute of Standards and Technology, 1998 (Revised: April 25, 2001), URL:

USA Standards for Business Forms

From: Federal Procurement Code List One (FP1), National Institute of Standards and Technology, 1999 URL:

Standards were developed as electronic versions of commonly used business forms, such as invoices and Remittance Advice.

An XML/EDI: Payment Order

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE PAY-NAT SYSTEM "pay-nat.dtd">
<PAY-NAT RefNo="0005">
<DTM1 Type="203">19970815</DTM1>
<FII Party="OR">

From: "Interim Report", CEN/ISSS XML/EDI Workshop, 2000, Archived at URL:

The Interim Report for the CEN/ISSS XML/EDI Pilot Project gave an example of an XML version of an EDIFACT National Payment Order.

Payment Order Elements

PAY-NAT Container for the message segments ...
BGM Identifies the beginning of the message...
MOA Monetary amount of payment. Defaults to GBP - Pounds sterling ...
FII Container for financial institution information...

From: "Interim Report", CEN/ISSS XML/EDI Workshop, 2000, Archived at URL:

Some elements used for the CEN/ISSS Payment Order.


   UN-EDIFACT:Prefix    CDATA   #FIXED   "UNH"
   RefNo                CDATA            #IMPLIED
   MessageTypeID        CDATA   #FIXED   "PAYEXT"
   Version              CDATA   #FIXED   "D"
   ReleaseNumber        CDATA   #FIXED   "96A"
   Agency               CDATA   #FIXED   "UN"
   AssociationCode      CDATA   #FIXED   "SIMP01" >
   UN-EDIFACT:Prefix    CDATA   #FIXED   "MOA"
   Type                 CDATA   #FIXED   "9"
   Currency             CDATA            "GBP" >

From: "Interim Report", CEN/ISSS XML/EDI Workshop, 2000, Archived at URL:

Part of the XML document type definition (DTD) of the CEN/ISSS Payment Order

This is a reasonably readable example. However, there is a bewildering array of such standards. Also commercial vendors of electronic document and e-commerce products use variations of standards, draft proposed standards, or attempt to create defacto standards based on market dominance.

W3C XML E-commerce Standards

WSDL Web Services Description Language
SOAP A lightweight protocol for exchanging structured information in a decentralized, distributed environment.
XML Schema For describing the structure and constraining the contents of XML 1.0 documents

W3C provide a very useful table to compare XML protocols. As with all good standards development, W3C has been taking technologies developed by industry and turning them into standards. W3C started at the bottom end, developing technical document standards and has more recently working its way up into data definitions, structure, transaction formats and discovery services.

The XML e-commerce standards are relatively new. There tends to be a heavy overlap of the companies involved. SOAP was developed by a consortium of Ariba, Inc., Commerce One, Inc., Compaq, HP, IBM, Microsoft, SAP and other major companies and is now being standardised by W3C. BizTalk was developed by Microsoft. WSDL was developed by Ariba, IBM and Microsoft. Beyond W3C's technical brief there are other standards which describe specific commercial transactions, such as EbXML from UN/CEFACT and oasis.

Making the situation more confusing is the overlap between business domains and technical standards. Early work mixed the development of what business information could be described (for example a payment advice note)and the format in which the information was encoded (such as in XML). Also many of the standards documents were difficult to read, being stored in large PDF documents.

Document Related Standards

XSL Extensible Stylesheet Language
XSLT XSL Transformations: For transforming XML documents into other XML documents.
XHTML Basic XHTML subset for Small Information Appliances
XML Extensible Markup Language

The W3C standards publication process has greatly improved this situation by providing well formatted web documents which are easily found at fixed URLs and by leaving the business domain to other standards makers, such as OASIS.

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Metadata and Electronic Document Management for Electronic Commerce by Tom Worthington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Australia License.

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