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Sitemaps.org - Standardisation of Sitemaps(2006)
Sitemaps.org was a domain that Google acquired a few months back and it looks like they have convinced Microsoft and Yahoo to follow suit by adapting the XML sitemaps protocol. This was developed by Google Sitemaps as a standard, and now appears to be for all three search engines.
The Google Sitemaps protocol is an XML file that contains one record for each url that is submitted to Google. It saves Google's crawlers from having to crawl a site to find links. Another Google crawler will later visit the website and fetch the submitted pages. The protocol specifes extra data to say how often a page should be crawled (from always, through hourly to yearly or even never), when a page was last modified and a relative priority for other pages on the same website.
The Sitemaps.org website is live but is not currently very informative, being just four pages, much of which appears copied from Google Sitemaps and is published under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence. There is one interesting nugget though.
The submission urls format
This is a way to upload the address of the sitemaps file you have created. The XML file can be gzipped to reduce the submitted file's size to 10MB or less. Previously sitemap submission was done manually through a logged in session to google Sitemaps so this will allow automated sitemap submission. However the search engines haven't published these search engine submission URLs yet so until they do...
This is a significant step forward as it has the blessing of three of the major search engines and will support the automated facility to upload sitemaps. I expect to see other seach engines following suit.