Dan Bricklin has proposed a format called SMBmeta to build a decentralized directory of small businesses. It's similar to RSS for news in the spirit, but dedicated to exchange of the essential data about small businesses (like the type of business, the area they cover, the opening hours and so on.)
I was a little bit concerned about the use of this format for non-US countries. For instance, it uses a US NAICS code to classify the businesses.
I looked around in google and found equivalent classifications for the european union.
An international format exists that is called ISIC rev3.
The european union uses NACE rev1 (that extends ISIC rev3).
You can find classifications on the United Nations Statistics Division website.
Here are some other mappings (with no download thought) from the US census website, and another one, and this Concordance of NAICS Canada 1997 to ISIC Rev3 (lowest level of detail).
So, should we use an international system, or maybe could we find a simpler idea to deal with all theses codes? I'm sure Dan Bricklin will figure this out.
SMBmeta looks very promising and useful.
Looks like simple metadata formats do work, when complex ones don't, surprising eh ?! (Read the RSS2.0 spec, you understand it at the first read; read the SMBmeta spec, and you understand it at first read; read anything about RDF and hit your head against the wall). I guess it's the difference between being pragmatic or idealist.