W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-pkg-uri-scheme@w3.org > January 2009

Re: tag: uri scheme

From: Boris Zbarsky <bzbarsky@MIT.EDU>
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 23:15:32 -0500
Message-ID: <4977F2E4.3010903@mit.edu>
To: Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>
CC: Marcos Caceres <marcosscaceres@gmail.com>, "public-pkg-uri-scheme@w3.org" <public-pkg-uri-scheme@w3.org>, "public-webapps@w3.org" <public-webapps@w3.org>, Tim Kindberg <timothy@hpl.hp.com>

Larry Masinter wrote:
> First, it usually isn't "authors" who personally assign MIME types
> to anything.

Indeed.  That's one saving grace, since we want more authors creating 
web content than there are people who even know what a MIME type is.

> MIME types are generally assigned by the HTTP servers, of which
> Apache and IIS are the most popular.

Yes, and at least Apache doesn't do a very good job of MIME type 
assignment, as you note below.

> This is important, because the difficulties experienced with
> MIME type assignment are mainly ones of configuration, not
> software capability. There were some earlier versions of Apache
> that would serve unknown file extensions as text/plain instead
> of application/octet-stream, but that was a configuration error.

This is still true of all shipping Apache versions to my knowledge, in 
the default configuration.  Furthermore, application/octet-stream is 
still not the right thing to be sending unknown data with.  Upcoming 
releases of Apache will allow not sending a type at all in that 
situation, but the default configuration remains to send text/plain.

> In general, it is fruitless to write standards that try to mandate
> behavior for software, organizations, or configurations which have
> not previously followed standards, because there is no indication
> whatsoever that they would follow the new standards any more than
> the old ones

That depends on whether the new standards better align with the actual 
goals of said software, organizations, or configurations.

> if you merely write standards to describe current
> behavior, there's no guarantee that the current behavior won't
> continue to drift, since the organizations involved have no more
> incentive to keep to the new standards any more than they did the
> old ones.

I'm not sure how that's relevant to this discussion, but it can in fact 
be useful to standardize current behavior in areas where no standard 
existed in the past, or where the standard that existed simply made no 
sense for whatever reason.

> So the issue isn't "authors", it is "software that authors use",
> and there's no reason to believe that package-generating
> software would do any worse generating correct MIME types than
> they would generating correct ZIP files.

Well, except that software to generate correct ZIP files already exists 
and is widely available.  Generating correct MIME types is a much harder 
problem, especially given the limitations of the MIME setup as it 
stands.  (Want to tell apart different types of font files by MIME type? 
  Tough luck: no registered types for any of them, nor even a reasonable 
place in the MIME hierarchy.  x-* types are not very interoperable.)

-Boris
Received on Thursday, 22 January 2009 04:16:50 GMT

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