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Re: Some recent Internet Drafts relating to URIs

From: Daniel R. Tobias <dan@dantobias.com>
Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 09:13:16 -0500
To: uri@w3.org
Message-ID: <3C4BDBAC.14453.92ED430@localhost>
Patrick Stickler <patrick.stickler@nokia.com> said:
> IMO, and with all due respect to all of the participants of those
> long and painful debates that I seem to have missed, the
> contemporary view has emerged simply because (a) even though URNs
> were defined, there was no standard resolution solution and those
> that needed them were a very small minority of web users and (b)
> 'http:' URLs were highly visible and taken by the majority of web
> users to be synonymous with URIs and when folks needed URIs for
> non-digital or abstract resources, they used 'http:' URIs and the
> (bad) practice became so prolific, that folks threw up their hands
> and said "since 'http:' URIs are no longer consistently URLs, let's
> forget about the distinction -- missing the whole point that (1)
> the distinction is valuable and valid, and (2) bad practice,
> however prolific, should not be a basis for architectural design. 

Unfortunately, there seems to be an awful lot of that sort of thing 
going on throughout the Internet, as hordes of ignorant newbies flood 
onto it, commercial interests feel they can make more profit 
pandering to them than educating them, and the great demand for 
professional developers and hence the flood of people into that field 
who weren't necessarily in the traditional "computer geek" mindset 
ensures that even the "pros" in the Internet community are, on the 
average, less technically knowledgeable than they were a few years 
ago.  The inevitable result is a huge and continuing pressure to dumb 
everything down to a level the current-day users, developers, bosses, 
and marketing types can understand, and their eyes tend to glaze over 
when presented with the sorts of elaborate logical structures that we 
"techno-geeks" love so much.

It's happened with domain names: the public gained an oversimplified 
"understanding" that they all end in .com, so even noncommercial and 
governmental sites often feel compelled to use that ending, and 
everybody seems to think that separate domain names are needed for 
every silly marketing gimmick because the masses are presumably too 
dumb to remember anything with hierarchical subdomain levels in it.

It's happened with HTML: the web designer community never seemed to 
be able to understand the concept of a logically structured markup 
language, when what they wanted was a desktop publishing language to 
create documents that were as static as if they were on paper, hence 
the "tag soup" in most Web pages.  If they observe that <UL> makes 
the browser indent, and <LI> plunks down a bullet, well, then, that's 
what those tags mean, and who cares whether you actually nest them 
correctly if the browser "works" with them even if you do it wrong?

My co-workers still tend to look at me like I'm from Mars whenever I 
try to explain any of this stuff; they regard it as kind of a 
personal idiosyncracy that I use <CITE> elements for citing book and 
magazine titles on Web pages instead of <I> (which "means the same 
thing", because it looks the same in popular browsers; so why learn 
some other geeky tag?), or because I have retrograde notions not 
shared by the marketing department to the effect that they maybe 
should consider using logical subdomains for sites that are logically 
subordinate to others instead of registering yet another silly-
marketing-gimmick domain name.

My personal websites are full of rants on this sort of thing.

I guess new URI schemes are yet another battleground for this sort of 
fight... I wonder if "our side" can finally manage to win one?  I 
guess it depends on whether the developers of the next generation of 
software decide to make some use of this stuff, versus sticking to 
the simpleminded concept that URIs begin with "http://", while 
patting themselves on the back about how sophisticated they are 
because they know that "URI" is the current correct name for them 
instead of "URL" and that "www.somesillyname.com" is not a complete, 
correct URI without the "http://" part.


-- 
== Dan ==
Dan's Web Tips: http://www.dantobias.com/webtips/
Dan's Domain Site: http://domains.dantobias.com/
Received on Monday, 21 January 2002 09:14:01 GMT

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