W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-egov-ig@w3.org > December 2010

Re: Uncool Gov URI's

From: Chris Beer <chris-beer@grapevine.net.au>
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2010 22:51:34 +1100
Message-ID: <4D0B4EC6.3040400@grapevine.net.au>
To: daniel@citizencontact.com
CC: chris@e-beer.net.au, Gannon Dick <gannon_dick@yahoo.com>, "W3C eGov Interest Group (All)" <public-egov-ig@w3.org>
Hi Daniel

On 12/15/2010 3:20 AM, daniel@citizencontact.com wrote:
> Chris,
> 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.

Absolutely - and you'll note that the Alice Brown examples I gave, 
assumed that the primary owner of the domain was the organisation using 
the service and that it wasn't third party.

While I was stirring the pot a litle, and they were just thoughts - 
something to generate discussion, I personally do very much see 
shorteners as simply a technology - neither good or bad. Utlised the 
right way in the right environment, with the right policy and 
governance, then their use would constitute a better practice and can 
assist in SemWeb, Accessibility, SEO etc.

It is the third party usage that becomes dangerous, along with redirect 
bouncing with "airspace" considerations as outlined in various articles 
(happy to dig them up - huffington post and royal pingdom both have some 
from memory that are well written) that makes the Policy and Legals so 
important for usage. When I say that bit.ly might be appropriate for a 
government - yes - for Libya it certainly would be. And yes if another 
government opened an account and then used a custom bit.ly link such as 
bit.ly/usa to point to usa.gov - that's simply smart "brand protection" 
and you'd expect to see the same gov do it across multiple shortening 
tools, if only to prevent hijacks etc.

> 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.

Yes - this is a limit imposed by the providers, not the technology. PURL 
is a 302 redirect service that does. Common free shorteners don't. But 
this has an upside as well - it also prevents hijacking of the shortcut 
by hackers to somewhere else if you point it to a persistant URL to 
start with (such as an archived document). (ok - so a hacker might be 
able to do it - but that's a pretty serious hacker who can pull it off.)

> 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.

True for an automated system. However the above aren't Cool URI's - they 
are just shortened URLs. My argument is that a shortening service 
controlled by the organisation, and that allows custom entries, will 
produce Cool URI's, especially if there is solid governance around URI 
naming conventions and IA.

> 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.

See above. One would assume that these cases (bit.ly is a prime example 
of it) are automated, and that you simply can't administer them. And 
that they are external pointers to an organisations information. So for 
the purposes of administration, one could also argue that if the content 
ever changed location, that the responsible host of the content would 
put a proper 300 series redirect error in place with a pointer to the 
new location.

> 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.

Common frameworks and templates? You are preaching to the choir at my 
end :) - Standards are good :)

I would have to say though that again - don't confuse a short URI with 
an automatically shortened URI. And judge the final product rather than 
the service itself. A great semweb effort for a canny developer would be 
to make a shortener that provides semantically cool URI's based on the 
page title. (Hmm. Adding that one to my to-do list actually...)

A well constructed URI/URL, with the assistance of other techs such as 
RDF, RDFa, ARIA, DC Metadata etc is obviously a better practice that 
should always be promoted.

It's good that we're all talking about this. We should cobble a Note 
together about it... (Question 1: With regard my opening comment above - 
what would this better practice look like. Looking at the UK and US 
efforts as case studies - what can we learn - as these better practice 

Cheers as aways


> 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
> http://www.google.com/search?q=alice+brown
> 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.
> Cheers
> Chris
> 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 Friday, 17 December 2010 11:52:07 UTC

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