What Does X.500 Mean?

X.500 is a series of computer networking standards used to develop the equivalent of an electronic directory that is very similar to the concept of a physical telephone directory. Its purpose is to centralize an organization’s contacts so that anyone within (and sometimes without) the organization who has Internet access can look up other people in the same organization by name or department. Several large institutions and multinational corporations have implemented X.500.


Techopedia Explains X.500

An X.500 directory is organized under a common root directory out of which other branches grow according to the individual organization’s structure.

For example, a large multinational company called GlobalCorp that is headquartered in the U.S. with branches in Asia, Europe and South America would have an X.500 directory with the following attributes:

  1. The root would be named Globalcorp, and the first-level branches would be the various continents (North America, Asia, South America and Europe).
  2. Flowing from each of these branches would be the second-level sub-branches. Therefore, under the North American branch, there would be branches labeled New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and so on.
  3. Under these second-level branches are listed the departments, then the employees in each department. So for Chicago, there may be Accounts, Human Resources, IT and so on.
  4. The employees will then be listed depending on which department they work in. For each employee, there may be several attributes, such as email address, phone number, photo and employee grade. Other attributes may be at the departmental level, such as street address, building name and floor number.

Therefore, Ming-Dae Kim who works in the South Korean office will have a directory structure as follows: GlobalCorp => Asia => S.Korea => Seoul => Accounts => Ming-Dae Kim ([email protected]”>[email protected]; +850 233 0980435; Senior Accountant).

Branches can be added to any level by the directory administrator. Each organization can have its own X.500 directory structure as long as all branches adhere to some predefined basic schema or layout. For example, all employees must belong to a department and must have at least an email address and phone number.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.