Re: Globalizing URIs

Peter Deutsch (
Mon, 14 Aug 1995 17:17:37 -0400

Message-Id: <>
From: Peter Deutsch <>
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 1995 17:17:37 -0400
In-Reply-To: Roy Fielding's message as of Aug 11, 19:18
To: Roy Fielding <>,
Subject: Re: Globalizing URIs

[ Roy Fielding wrote: ]
.  .  .
} I'd just like to point out that most of this discussion is ignoring
} the fact that the transcribability of URLs is one of the main reasons
} the WWW has been successful in building an information base.  Although
} it may now be possible to add persistent naming to that base, it would
} not have been possible to create such a base with non-transcribable names.

Actually, I think this is ascribing a disproportionate
part of the Web's success to the transcribability of its
URLs. Yes, URLs are relatively more human friendly than
ISBN numbers (and I agree that this is a "Good Thing
(tm)"), but I don't think that this transcribability was
greatest driving force behind the Web's success. Rather,
it seems to me that it was the Web's use of embedded links
(in which humans don't even see the URL) and the ability to
include graphics which "sold" people on the Web. It's
success was well deserved, but I would guess that most
users still wouldn't be able to identify the components of
a URL, or notice or care if a URL was missing one of the
two "/"'s. Not every web user is on this list! :-)

} Which of the following would you want on your business card?
}     ismn:893505109550819789356548054910

Well, obviously the first, but virtually every business
card I have in my rolodex has numbers of the form:

		(514) 875-8611

Yup, ordinary phone numbers. And people do know the
semantics (eg. they look for an area code in North America
and country routing codes for Europe), they perform simple
checksums on the digit strings (eg. some places have more
or less than seven digits in the local exchange part, and
this will elicit comments as being "strange") and they are
not flumoxed when required to use these things. And since
they don't include both "l" and "1" transcribability is in
some ways more simple than for URLs.

Conversely, I think it's a safe bet that more than one
person trying to access the URL ""
will be burned by typing "...people/fielding". After all,
upper case shouldn't matter, right? 

.  .  .
} OTOH, anyone who thinks people will stop using URLs just because a URN
} exists has failed to study the users of this technology.

And of course, a lot will depend upon what we as
implementors do in the next little while. If the Web
development community refuses to implement URNs then of
course people will stick with what they have, and this
will become a self fulfilling prophecy...

					- peterd


  ...there is reason to hope that the machines will use us kindly, for
  their existance will be in a great measure dependent on ours; they will
  rule us with a rod of iron, but they will not eat us...

                                               - Samuel Butler, 1872