James has suggested that a good place to start with defining a business description format is a Dublin Core-like set of informational elements that can characterise a business.
That set me thinking about what characteristics are exhibited by Dublin Core that sets it apart. My view is that the Dublin Core element set consists of 15 deliberately vague elements. For example, date represents a date for a resource. What kind of date? What format? Whose calendar? Dublin core doesn't specify any of those, and it doesn't really care - it's up to the author to interpret the meaning in the context of the resource they are describing. The DC qualifiers can add more precision (created, modified etc). This is, I believe, the secret of Dublin Core's success. Because they are not proscriptive the elements are applicable across a wide spectrum of scenarios: from xml schemas to rss to gutenberg etc. Also, by keeping them simple but extensible the first set of elements could be adopted quickly by authors.
Additionally, the Dublin Core elements generally describe invariants about a document: creator, publisher, identifier, language etc. It's another factor in Dublin Core's success - maintenance of the elements by an author is rarely required.
So, we have to ask ourselves, what are the CORE elements of description about businesses and organisations and can we abstract them to eliminate cultural differences?
Currently I don't think address information is core to identifying a business or organisation. It varies more rapidly than the company name.
Anyway these are the concepts I came up with (some are dubious of course):
- registration - the registration number of the company or organisation
- name - the name of the organisation
- type - the type of organisation (e.g. Ltd., Plc, Corp., Gmbh., charity)
- trading name - an alternative name the organisation is known as
- classification - the business classification (NAICS, SICS etc)
- stock symbol - the stock symbol the company trades under (MSFT etc)
- country - the country the organisation is registered in