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Re: Uncool Gov URI's

From: <daniel@citizencontact.com>
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2010 11:20:29 -0500 (EST)
To: chris@e-beer.net.au
Cc: "Gannon Dick" <gannon_dick@yahoo.com>, "W3C eGov Interest Group (All)" <public-egov-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <1292343629.906528626@>
I think there are some critical missing pieces to what are points that you are making. 

Policy/Legal Issues:
Putting aside the technical issues, there are legal and policy concerns. Specifically with governments, there are policy questions about authority and control of published documents. If a government publishes a link that is a redirect to the authentic document, like a handle such as the Thomas LOC handles for bills, there are clear methods of control by the US Government. If the LOC wants to change the redirects of the handles, an authorized entity can. Not so with most outsourced short URL systems. More importantly, the authority of the domain is outside the governance of the government. As you point out, using cute TLDs is a common practice, and for commercial entities it is clearly a smart marketing tool for their sites (but not for short URL uses)--not the same for governments.

Another policy issue is identity. A URL normally uses the domain to identify the authority, but with many short URLs their is no clear identity. The destination URL will often have it, but that is a secondary 

Technical problems with most URL redirects as opposed to cool URIs:
First, most short URLs that are used seem to not allow any changes. So if the destination is changed there may be no way to alter the redirect. Second, consider to adjacent documents with the similar URLs, like http://entity.gov/document/bill-1 and /bill-2. The short URLs will likely be uncool, such as http://bit.ly/sdfadea and /w8cs02x . And even if the system like at tinyurl.com where there is some control, it is used as more than a mnemonic than a well constructed URI despite your examples.

Also, there are often short URLs for each time a document is mentioned, allowing for multiple redirect URLs for the same document--a veritable nightmare to administer.

I think that governments should concentrate on having well constructed URLs and offering templates or other method for predicting and/or discovering resources. Short URLs create multiple and extremely difficult to catalog URLs and almost useless for metadata purposes. Which is not to say that URLs should be as short as is possible, they should. The limitation of 140/160 characters for a message should be for the human readable portion, not a constraint that hinders the good use of the URI/domain system. 

Daniel Bennett 

-----Original Message-----
From: "Chris Beer" <chris@e-beer.net.au>
Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 6:37am
To: "Gannon Dick" <gannon_dick@yahoo.com>
Cc: "W3C eGov Interest Group (All)" <public-egov-ig@w3.org>
Subject: Re: Uncool Gov URI's

Hmmm. An interesting conversation as I come back off holidays (yes - I 
owe people some other replies - Gannon - watch out for one on LDA's in 
Aust. tomorrow sometime :) ). And one that ties in nicely with the 
earlier discussion on URI's and other tech's such as handle.net etc.

To throw some thoughts in the mix:

1) Technically, the US started all this by opting to take over .com, 
.net, etc instead of using .us - for shame. That instantly broke the 
idea of TLD's being country specific.

2) Quite a number of smaller countries, or states with small internet 
presences, such as Greenland, Tonga, Libya, Colombia etc allow 
registrars to openly sell second level domains in these TLD's to anyone 
(or to those who cut appropriate deals) - therefore, as a straight up 
business transaction, I don't see how Denmark (.dk) loses out.

3) On top of this, you have the http://to./ shortening service, run by 
the .to TLD authority themselves - and you thought goo.gl was a problem 
re: IANA Root Zone and 3166-1. On top of this, Tonga doesn't even 
operate a whois registry - it's like the Cayman Islands of the Internet.

4) To further stir the pop on this discussion, I give you .tv - Tuvalu. 
Now here is a case where A country pretty much sold off/leased the 
rights to it's domain completely - Google is a bit player compared to 
VeriSign in this case. In short - there are examples of atleast 50 TLD's 
which are used as vanity URI's by commercial interests, or sold by 
registrars for this reason.

Ok - so where am I going with all this.

*EVERY* URI (or old school URL) is a redirect - they all ultimately 
resolve to an IP address. Even handle.net permanent URI's. Which makes 
the UK and US approach to thier archiving and permanence as discussed by 
Anne and David in another thread very valid - there really isn't a one 
size fits all approach to redirects and Cool URI's - its horses for 
courses and even bit.ly can work for some governments after appropriate 
scoping. Sure we might debate whether go.us.gov is better than gov.us as 
a shortener - end of the day we'll trust and use either knowing it is a 
government service, without complaint.

The thing about a Cool URI isn't that it's permanent - after all - 
permanence is an illusion - companies can go bust, countries can cease 
to exist, IP addresses can simply go down. And it isn't it's semantic - 
no where in any of the key Cool URI documents does it say that 
example.com has to be semantic - in fact, Internationalized TLD's forces 
a rethink of the semantics of the actual second level domain. The 
semantics come AFTER the TLD. It's all the bits after the first /.

In that sense goo.gl/person/alice_brown is a perfectly valid Cool URI - 
it has trust (I know it is reputable), it has provenence (I know it's 
pretty reliable in terms of what it returns), and it makes for a perfect 
permanent search query (google me everything about people called Alice 
Brown.) And way easier to remember than 

I'd expect that imdb.tv/person/alice_brown will return me an article on 
Alice Brown, the actress. Or that t.co/person/alice_brown will take me 
to the twitter account of Alice Brown. And that 
w3.org/person/alice_brown will take me to the home page of Alice Brown 
who works at the W3.

The domain gives context in a perfect Cool URI world, and assists in 
determining uniqueness - it certainly, in reality, in the now, has 
nothing to do with actual countries, no matter how much we want it to. 
If it does, it can only really be seen as a pleasant coincidence.

Thoughts and flames always appreciated.



On 12/14/2010 5:45 AM, Gannon Dick wrote:
> A recent contest involving Google's Chrome OS featured a contest which involved recognition of the "Google URL Shortener" at http://goo.gl/
> The "only" problems are that this convention conflicts with both the IANA Root Zone [1] and ISO 3166-1 [2].
> This highlights the problem of "hand offs" between Central Governments and Local Governments.  In this case, the Kingdom of Denmark (an EU Member), has lost a measure of control of a subdivision (Greenland) in Cyberspace.
> --Gannon
> [1] http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/gl.html
> [2] http://www.iso.org/iso/iso-3166-1_decoding_table
Received on Tuesday, 14 December 2010 16:22:35 UTC

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