Microsoft Corp and Marimba Inc have proposed a way of describing the characteristics of a software application or package using a set of tags called the Open Software Description (OSD). The goal is to provide a common way of describing software components, their versions, structure and relationships to other components. The spec has been endorsed by among others, Lotus Development Corp and Netscape Communications Corp, who described it as a sophisticated Read Me. In other words it is a way of describing to the computer, rather than to the user, what components make up a piece of software, what class libraries are needed and the order in which they need to be installed. Netscape described it as one piece of the puzzle in aiding software distribution over the internet. OSD, like Microsoft’s Channel Definition Format (CDF) push specification is based on the eXtensible Markup Language (XML). CDF is for describing the HTML pages, whereas OSD is for describing a whole software package. Marimba said a further specification to describe electronic distribution of the software would be the logical next step, perhaps based on its own ADP application distribution protocol, but that’s a way off yet. Microsoft and Marimba jointly handed the OSD spec to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) which acknowledged its receipt as we went to press and will now presumably begin the evaluation process. The spec should be up at http://www.microsoft.com/standards/osd although it was not there when we looked last night. XML itself is in the process of making its way through the W3C and is something of a political football in the hands of Microsoft and Netscape, as we reported yesterday (CI No 3,225). Microsoft has submitted its CDF to the W3C already. OSD can describe software written in any language as well as component models such as Microsoft’s COM and Sun Microsystems Inc’s JavaBeans. It is said to provide the vocabulary for packaging software in the way CDF provides the vocabulary for packaging web pages.
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