The OpenTravel Alliance, the organization that develops XML messaging specifications for electronic travel distribution, is adopting a new identity that reflects a philosophical shift: It is setting standards for the industry.

In the alliance's seven-year history, OpenTravel stressed that it creates and encourages the adoption of "specifications" rather than standards. It shied away from any suggestion that usage of or compliance with its message sets were compulsory, and any company that claimed its message sets were "OTA-compliant" were quickly corrected: A company could not be compliant if there were no standards with which to comply.

That stance proved problematic: If it company adopted a specification, it was limited in how it could communicate that information to would-be trading partners.

With its new logo that includes the tag line "Setting the Standard," OpenTravel is dropping its fence-straddling position.

"We are the standard," chairman John Turato said. "We are not confused anymore."

At last week's OpenTravel Alliance Advisory Forum in Montreal, Turato also announced that the organization will bolster its new outlook with a peer-rating program for members.

Members who apply for the program will name the functional messages, such as availability query or cancellation, that they have implemented with at least one trading partner.

The trading partner will verify that the two companies are using the messages successfully.

The program stops short of true certification, since it does not involve a third-party audit.

But as currently conceived, it will function much as eBay's Feedback program, in which users rate sellers for trustworthiness.

The designation for the peer rating, which members will be able to use in their marketing materials, is still to be determined, but some members voiced approval of "OpenTravel-Connected."

The alliance will maintain a public registry of members who pass muster in the program on its Web site, opentravel.org.

OpenTravel also plans to introduce a support program for members that need help in implementing OpenTravel messages.

Members will be able to purchase blocks of telephone time with Logistics Management Institute for assistance.