Industry heavyweights took a step closer towards creating an XML-based standard for linking applications and services over the Internet, as the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) acknowledged the submission of SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) Version 1.1 for its review.

The standard was primarily developed by Microsoft, Userland and DevelopMentor. It’s an attempt to create an international language for linking applications and services over the internet, Microsoft said.

Several other companies have voiced their support for the protocol, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Ariba, Compaq, Commerce One, and Lotus.

First step John Montgomery, product manager at Microsoft, said: "Right now, Internet applications don't really have a native way of richly communicating with each other, this is the first step in creating a standard."

Microsoft officials said the protocol includes three basic parts: a framework for describing what is in a message and how to process it; a set of encoding rules for expressing instances of application-defined data types; and a convention for representing remote procedure calls and responses.

Montgomery said SOAP is the first of what Microsoft hopes will be a series of protocols introduced to further what he calls the company's "Web services vision" of getting different applications to talk together over the Internet.

"The key to these protocols is that they are open and anyone can build on top of them and implement them," Montgomery said.

Great expectations Montgomery added that the demand for SOAP comes from the top down in IT businesses, as CEOs are raising their standards and expectations, looking for better ways to more easily link in partners.

Noah Mendelsohn, Lotus' representative to the W3C and a co-author of SOAP 1.1, dismissed the notion of SOAP as a bandwagon begun by Microsoft, heralding the potential for all parties to share common benefits. He said: "This is not at all a bunch of other companies signing on to a Microsoft technology. Something of this sort is needed, and that's the kind of momentum that we all wanted to leverage.

"There is a real interest in building Web-enabled applications in general. In terms of the technology itself, a bunch of companies got together for the first time to create a version that is vendor-neutral."

Vote Now that SOAP 1.1 has been received by the W3C, the consortium will have to vote whether or not to assign a working group to review the protocol and define its scope. Should the W3C find SOAP to be a prudent standard, it could then brand it as such within six months.

Mendelsohn also said the first test of SOAP 1.1 will come next week at the WWW9 Conference in Amsterdam, when a panel will discuss SOAP in detail.