Verifone Inc. has joined the Object Definition Alliance, a multi- industry group organized by Oracle Corp. to create technical standards for electronic commerce.

Other charter members of the group, which wants to facilitate transactions over multimedia networks like the Internet and interactive television, include Apple Computer, Home Box Office, Price Costco, MCI, Wells Fargo, Visa, and MasterCard.

Their goal is to standardize systems for consumers to purchase digital products - such as software, videos, compact disks, and bank services - over electronic networks.

Objects can be thought of as building blocks that computer programmers can use and re-use in writing software.

The theory behind the Object Definition Alliance, or ODA, is that many companies can pool talent and financial resources to the point where "virtual" merchants, product providers, and payment collectors "speak the same language," said Greg Newman, director of market development for new media at Oracle.

The Redwood City, Calif., software company, best known for its sophisticated data base systems, launched a similar effort called the Set- Top Alliance, discussing the hardware for interactive television.

Mr. Newman said standards should spur the growth of electronic commerce. But he said the object programming group will only make recommendations to the bodies that actually write industry standards.

The ODA has seven committees. MasterCard, Visa, and Verifone, the No. 1 manufacturer of credit card authorization terminals, make up the electronic payments committee.

Another committee, financial services, consists of Wells Fargo Bank and Visa Interactive. Others are expected to join shortly.

"It'll be a Who's Who of the banking industry," said Mr. Newman. "One area of multimedia development everyone is hot on is home banking and bill payment."

Verifone, a Redwood City neighbor of Oracle, will contribute payment systems expertise, said Roger B. Bertman, vice president of business development.

"We will be devoting significant technical resources to educate the ODA members about electronic payments" and the need for unified, interoperable systems, said Mr. Bertman.

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