Standards for industries

Open standards for specific environments

/ en/ article /branchestandard_en.phpSubjects: dtd, html, sgml, w3c, xml, xml schema's, xslt, financial sector, industry standards, open standard

In many industries it is of vital importance to receive the right information at the right time. With the rise of Internet as a communication medium the volume of information that lands on a decision maker's desk has increased dramatically. There is a need for solutions that enable the filtering and sorting of this information glut. XML standards can provide these.

Separation of presentation and content

In 1969 an IBM employee, Charles Goldfarb, with his co-workers Ed Mosher and Ray Lorie worked in a project to integrate a text editor, an information retrieval system and a page composition program into one system. They were confronted with the problem that each of the programs had their own specific mark-up codes. As a result of this texts could not be exchanged between the programs. They came up with a solution in which procedural mark-up codes had been replaced by generic descriptive codes. These descriptive codes were not directly linked to a specific mark-up. For example, a title could be coded as <title> instead of the programmatic code ‘center bold’. Furthermore, they introduced the concept of a document type description containing a formal definition of the document's structure, and an explicit nested element structure. They called this solution Generalized Markup Language (GML).

These two principles – separation of mark-up and application functionality, and the definition of a nested document structure in a document type – are the foundations of SGML? (Standard Generalised Markup Language) and, later, XML? (eXtensible Markup Language). SGML is a meta language, it describes how descriptive tags can be added to a document. Unlike HTML?, SGML does not have a finite set of tags that can be used. Users or groups of users can make up their own tags and define them in a Document Type Definition (DTD?).

SGML uses in industry

In 1983 SGML became an industry standard, and was in use by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the US Department of Defence, amongst others. SGML was primarily used within companies. However, SGML’s potential to be used in the information exchange between organisations was soon recognised. Two of the first examples of SGML for exchanging information between organisations are the Electronic Manuscript Project of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Computer-aided Acquisition and Logistic Support (CALS) project of the US Department of Defence. The Electronic Manuscript Project improved the exchange of manuscripts between authors and publishers. CALS was used to enhance the communication between the army and its suppliers.

From SGML to XML

SGML had many advantages, but also some drawbacks. For one, it was very complex. In the early nineties work had been done to simplify SGML, while retaining its flexibility and functionality. The result of this work is XML. Like SGML, XML is a meta language. It defines how documents can be enriched by descriptive tags without prescribing a definite set of tags. A central element in the development of XML was its potential use in Internet applications.

XML standards

XML standards can be categorised by looking at their scope and the characteristics of their use:

  • First, there are the standards that relate to the XML technology itself. These meta languages define how XML documents can be coded (XML), how document structures can be defined (XML Schema's?) and how XML documents can be manipulated (XSLT?). These standards are supervised by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C?).

  • Second, the XML standards that refer to the information exchange process: SOAP and WSDL for example.

  • Third, industry standards for the exchange and structuring of information within industrial sectors.

  • Finally, company standards for internal use.

Industry standards

The use of XML has increased enormously the last few years because of its flexibility and its ease of use. In many industries research is carried out to look at XML for creating standards – in business, government and the academic world. SGML already showed how this could be done. Because XML is a meta language companies and organisations can define which tags to use and what these tags mean. Such definitions are written down in DTD’s or XML Schema's.

Financial sector and XML standards

Timely and accurate information is of great importance in many sectors, for example the financial sector. Many financial institutions work together in the development of XML standards to control the information exchange. These XML standards concern the content of information, as well as the exchange procedures. lists the XML initiatives in the world of finance.

XML-projects in the financial sector:


Financial XML. Focus: Capital Markets Instruments & Straight Through Processing.


Financial Information Exchange Markup Language. Focus: Securities Transactions.


Financial Products Markup Language. Focus: Financial derivatives.

Funds XML

Focus: Investment.


Focus: Investment Research.

ISO 15022 XML

Focus: Securities Processing.


Markets Markup Language. Category: Financial Information.


Market Data Definition Language. Focus: Market Data.


Network Trade Model. Focus: Capital Markets Instruments, Straight Through Processing Events, Static Data.


Open Financial Exchange. Focus: Payments and Funds Transfer.


Research Information eXchange Markup Language. Focus: Investment Research


Straight Through Processing Markup Language. Focus: Straight Through Processing


Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications Markup Language. Focus: Securities Processing.


Weather Markup Language. Focus: Weather Derivatives.


Extensible Business Reporting Language. Focus: Financial statements.


As an example of an industry XML standard we take look at the Research Information eXchange Markup Language (RIXML).

Everyday investment funds (so-called ‘buy-side firms’) receive thousands of messages that could be of importance when deciding which shares to buy or to sell. These messages come from so-called ‘sell-side firms’ – banks and stock analysts. They come in many forms: Word documents, Excel documents, PowerPoint presentations, and also audio and video files. – a consortium of sell-side and buy-side firms – has as its goal to create an open standard for describing investment and financial research. If all these different types of messages could be delivered in a uniform way this would streamline the storing, sorting, filtering and merging of information.

Sell-side firms benefit from such a standard because the information they deliver lands on the right spot and does not disappear in a big heap. Buy-side firms can query the available information efficiently without having to browse through tons of irrelevant information.

RIXML-document fragment:

  <Title>The Beauty of Oklahoma</title>
  <Abstract>We recently initiated coverage of Oklahoma Energy with
    a Buy rating and a 12-month target price of $100, assuming 6.0
    times our 2002 EBITDA estimate. Depending on the duration and
    magnitude of the current, strong price environment, we believe
    upside to the $100-200 range is possible because of strong free
    cash generation. </Abstract>
 <Synopsis>This document discusses the performance of OKL and its
    future prospects.</Synopsis>
  <Resource resourceid="CSFBOklahoma280201.pdf" Language="eng"
             SizeInBytes="252810" PrimaryIndicator="Yes">
    <Length lengthunit="Pages">12</Length>

The consortium developing RIXML has been initiated by the T. Rowe Price Group, an American investment group. This buy-side firm tried to merge research information from separate sources and failed because of the different protocols used by the sell-side firms. The consortium consists furthermore of investment funds like American Century Investments and Putnam Investments and business banks like Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.

Successful standards

Which aspects lead to a successful industry standard?

  1. In many cases XML standards are developed by an industry consortium consisting of big market players. In some cases an XML standard is developed by a single company. This can only be successful if that company has a great weight in the field.

  2. There should also be a clear need for an industry standard. The standard must address problems widely spread across the sector.

  3. XML standards are often build on earlier non-XML standards.

  4. It should be clear how version management is controlled, and in what way additions and changes can be made to the specification.

  5. Acceptance of a standard also depends on the availability of software developed to work with the XML specification.

Sometimes separate XML initiatives are being developed that address the same information problem. RIXML for example plays in the same field as the Investment Research Markup Language (IRML). At the end of the day industrial acceptance and use will decide which specification will remain. Often specifications are merged into a new specification.

  • SGML Source Home Page>>

  • XML on Wall Street>>

  • Research Information eXchange Markup Language>>

  • The Cover Pages - industry initiatives>>

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