A Word for adXML

Most of the meetings I took at @d:Tech this week involved some proprietary, if interesting, email or advertising technology.

I know y’all worked hard on this stuff, but the most important meeting I took involved something free, open and guaranteed not to impress your average user.

The technology is adXML, and my guide was adXML.org chairman Art Scott. Scott, a fit, jolly and bearded man who looks like he plays Santa for the children of San Jose health nuts, works at Mediaplex Inc., an ad technology outfit there. He got involved in adXML to solve a problem that was stealing his profits and is probably stealing yours.

“We were doing business by fax. The insertion order changes and cancellation orders they were all sent by fax. There was a form item for a URL, usually 50-60 characters of junk. It was easy to screw up,” and maybe one time in 20 it was.

The solution was XML, a mark-up language that lets you develop your own tags and includes a parser (supported in current versions of Explorer and Netscape Navigator) to translate them. Scott, who had previously done an XML messaging architecture for consumer electronic devices at Samsung, simply whipped up some tags for those fax insertion orders.

The result was a document type definition (DTD) for ordering banner ads. But if you’re the only one with a DTD, Scott said, it’s like being the only person who owns a fax machine there’s no one to communicate with.

The answer was to form a committee, to create standard DTDs for various industry forms. “We gave it away, formed an organization, and called a meeting. The first meeting was December 9, over 20 companies came, and everyone responded. Everyone had this problem. We didn’t have to sell anybody. Fax sucks. They hate it.”

There are now 140 companies involved in adXML, working on tags for all sorts of industry paperwork. The definitions will be saved in the adXML.org server, so if a parser gets confused there’s a machine it can go to for help.

Handling workflow is just one thing adXML can do. The group is working on standards for staffing, for requests for proposal (RFP) and requests for quotes (RFQ). Once the forms and tags are agreed upon, Scott hopes to hand the work over to Oasis-Open under Sun fellow and XML creator Jon Bosak, which can act as a central repository for tags and work on new ones.

While walking the @d:Tech show floor with Scott after our talk, I suddenly noticed that many booths had little adXML signs and brochures by them. AdExchange Inc., Beverly Hills, Calif., where Ross Misher is vice president for business development, was one of these companies.

AdExchange is trying to build a marketplace that will let you buy banners online the way you now get air tickets from Expedia or Travelocity, Misher said, and adXML is a key to that effort.

“Instead of offering a proprietary system they have to integrate, we can say use adXML and you can transact with us. Then it’s just a matter of selling adXML. That’s part of our mission now,” Misher said.

If you want to save money and interact with your business partners automatically, adXML should be part of your mission, too.

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