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Re: Web Resource Identity

  • From: Tim Bray <tbray@t...>
  • To: Paul Prescod <paul@p...>, "xlxp-dev@f..." <xlxp-dev@f...>, xml-dev <xml-dev@i...>, lavoie@o..., frystyk@w...
  • Date: Fri, 28 May 1999 10:59:53 -0700

Re: Web Resource Identity
At 10:01 AM 5/28/99 -0500, Paul Prescod wrote:
>I believe that the Web needs a concept of a canonical URL, if it doesn't
>already have one. Retrieving a document or the HEAD for the document
>should describe the canonical URL. I wouldn't mind if the canonical URL
>was a totally unreadable UUID as long as I can take two URLs and figure
>out whether they refer to two things that happen to have the same content
>or actually refer to the SAME THING.

It's pretty crystal-clear that at the moment, given the existence of 
content negotiation, the web has no built-in concept of a canonical URI.
While the idea has been attractive ever since Ted Nelson postulated (30 
years ago) that in a networked environment there ought really only to be 
one instance of each object, all the attempts that I know of to address 
the issue of canonically naming things have shuffled down the path to 
dusty death, either quickly or slowly.

This doesn't worry me.  As Dan Connolly will tell you until your ears
bleed, if you are an organization that cares about persistence, uniqueness,
and managing your web space properly, there's nothing about plain ol' URLs
that gets in the way.  Empirically, it is the case that a lot of 
organizations who should know better are shoddy about the design of
their web spaces in a way that, as Paul points out, is going to make
it hard for them to take advantage of RDF.  Maybe if we're lucky, since
URLs are the only credible thing to hang Web metadata on, and since the
need for ubiquitous Web metadata is becoming mind-numbingly obvious, people
will be motivated to start doing the right thing.  But we in the computing
profession, as with all other professions, are all idiots at least some
of the time... I am doubtful that any canonical-addressing scheme can
combat the human propensity to screw up sometimes. -Tim

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