A new Web standard for allowing business software to communicate over the Internet regardless of which platform it is running on had been released and approved by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) version 1.2 is good news for business as it effectively removes compatibility problems. Therefore people can communicate easily and freely, companies have more flexibility in choosing new software and new operating systems and old software doesn't become redundant.

Incredible then that not only does Microsoft endorse the protocol - built on XML - but that it was the main person that developed it. The reason is simple: the world is moving towards cross-platform, cross-software communication thanks to the ubiquitous Internet and its philosophy of common standards. And Microsoft's major enemy in this area - Java - offers exactly that.

In fact, the company behind Java - Sun - was explaining just a fortnight ago how it was putting everything behind Java becoming the new super-standard for software working on the Web. SOAP 1.2 - which comes with W3C backing and legitimacy and without patent controls on it - is Microsoft's spoiler. Not that business will care much.

Worldwide web father Tim Berners-Lee was on hand to expound how great SOAP was: "Web services make good on the promise of interoperable applications only when the technical foundations are shared, robust, and achieve expected performance," he said. "Today W3C members have endorsed SOAP 1.2, the first version of SOAP to have undergone rigorous testing and implementation and to support a full complement of Web standards."

Not only that but the Internet's big boys also waxed lyrical about SOAP. "SOAP provides a key specification for building Web services... it will foster faster adoption of Web services in the IT industry," said someone important from BEA. It is "the foundation technology for Web services and a critical component of the emerging technical infrastructures," said someone equally important from IBM.

"The W3C SOAP version 1.2 recommendation is a milestone in the evolution of the Web services architecture" - Microsoft.

"This standard represents a significant step toward industry-wide interoperability of Web services" - Oracle.

"Sun applauds the W3C in moving SOAP 1.2 to final standardization" - oops, Sun doesn't sound all that chuffed.

Everything you could possible want to know about SOAP 1.2 (which, despite is name is actually the first proper version of the standard) can be found at the W3C site at http://www.w3.org.