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Self-Service Syndication with ICE

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ICE Standardization

ICE is truly a demand-driven standard. Vignette recognized the need for a syndication protocol, but quickly realized it had to obtain wide industry adoption to make it work. It sought syndication-software vendors (including competitors), syndicators, and subscribers to participate in an ad hoc standards group. Most were part of an advisory council; the active core became the ICE Authoring Group.

Any syndication protocol would fail if it didn't address the needs of end users, so the ICE Authoring Group decided that syndicators and subscribers should comprise a minimum of 50 percent of the participants. No new vendors could join unless there were enough new end users to provide a balance. The result is a standard shaped and driven by market need.

Some of the first ICE applications were surprising. Despite the participation of large news syndicators in the standardization effort, the first apps came from manufacturers who used ICE to publish parts catalogs. These companies continue to push the boundaries of the ICE standard heavily. One vendor, Arcadia Technologies, is now building ICE tools and middleware specifically for parts catalogs.

Andromedia adopted ICE for a unique purpose: syndicating and subscribing to Web visitor events. Andromedia's network monitors sniff packets, plug in to Web servers or application servers, and then syndicate the results through the ICE protocol. Web-traffic analyzers and personalization servers that adapt to visitor behavior are ICE subscribers, and on occasion they are ICE syndicators as well. Andromedia standardized on ICE to let partner companies easily integrate new dynamic content servers, event monitors, and analyzers with its products.

Although the ICE standardization group remained ad hoc until the standard was nearly complete, it needed a formal organization to promote the standard and approve changes. It selected an organization centered around publishers, the Graphics Communication Association, rather than a Web- or computer-centric group. The advantage is that users exert greater control than engineers; however, a possible disadvantage is that the standard may not undergo rigorous technical evaluation.--DG

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