PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (05/23/2000) - E-commerce vendor Bowstreet Software Inc. is weeks away from launching an online exchange that will enable businesses to add value to their Web sites by incorporating discrete services offered by other Web players.
The Business Web Exchange will let members look through an inventory of available services, study background information about them, read ratings by others who've used the services and negotiate a contract with the service providers - all via the Exchange site.
Web services can be anything that's accessible via a browser. A real estate agent, for example, might import a service that marries census data to zip codes and lets homebuyers profile neighborhoods. Or a manufacturer might add a currency exchange calculator to let international trading partners compare prices and costs in U.S. dollars with local currencies. And so on.
The Exchange is being built with Bowstreet's Business Web Factory software, first released last fall. Based on Java and XML - a standard way to handle data in Web documents - Web Factory lets IT groups package legacy data, applications and business processes as Web-accessible services.
The Exchange will include a new, free, limited feature version of Web Factory called Marketplace Edition. The free offering will let Exchange members incorporate the selected services into their own Web offerings.iPropertyOne early Exchange member is iProperty (www.iproperty. com), which is preparing a secure Web service called Chorus to help realtors, sellers and homebuyers close sales more quickly. Using the Exchange and the free version of the Bowstreet Business Web Factory, iProperty can make its site more valuable by adding Web services from other companies.
For example, using the Exchange, iProperty could search for and incorporate a credit report service that its customers could use to quickly find out if they meet the basic requirements for financing. By patching in the service, iProperty makes its service more valuable and the credit service provider does more business.
The Chorus service from iProperty can itself be included as part of a Web commerce offering from a mortgage company or a bank, a rippling effect that Bowstreet's co-founder and co-chairman Frank Moss calls the "net effect."
The Exchange will facilitate this net effect, as well as showcase Bowstreet's software. The company's main revenue will come from sales of Web Factory to enterprise users. Bowstreet may let others private label the Exchange and is exploring revenue- sharing options with software vendors.
Currently, Bowstreet has signed up 60 participants for the Exchange. It plans to have more than 100 when the Exchange launches and at least 400 by year-end.
Because the Exchange - like Bowstreet's software - relies heavily on XML (and Java), anyone with an XML-compatible Web service can register it with the Exchange. Anyone can also search for, evaluate and license the listed services.
The contracts for services made available over the Exchange are negotiated between the buyer and the service provider.
Moss says the Exchange is different from current digital marketplaces. Those are focused on squeezing costs out of procurement. Bowstreet wants to make it easy to build relationships that lead to increased sales.
To help manage the complex relationships that can be weaved using Bowstreet's wares, the company has automated the task of replicating changes. If the credit report used by iProperty adds a new feature, that feature appears on both the iProperty site and the mortgage site that use iProperty.
"You have [with our software] a layer of abstraction that maintains these business relationships," Moss says.
The Bowstreet Business Web Exchange will go live probably in June. The Marketplace Edition of Web Factory will be able to support up to 10 users. The Enterprise Edition will support unlimited users and be released at the same time.
Key changes in Version 2.0 include:
Linux support, in addition to Windows NT and Solaris.
Ability to support Enterprise JavaBeans in the Web Factory templates, which define a web of business relationships.
Support for additional XML schema definition languages - Microsoft's XML-Data Reduced (used in the Microsoft BizTalk framework), and the World Wide Web Consortium's XML schema definition language.
Better performance and redesigned user interface.
Price varies, but a typical deployment will be about $250,000.