W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > uri@w3.org > April 2003

Re: secure URIs

From: Trevor Perrin <trevp@trevp.net>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 13:46:05 -0700
To: "Clive D.W. Feather" <clive@demon.net>
Cc: uri@w3.org
Message-id: <>

At 08:34 AM 4/30/2003 +0100, you wrote:

>Trevor Perrin said:
> >> I agree meta: isn't very informative, so a better name would be good.
> >> On the other hand, secure/crypto might be too narrow.  I'm thinking
> >> about other possible "metadata" you might want to attach to an URL.
> > I can't think of great uses for metadata like this beside crypto data, 
> so I
> > wouldn't mind having a "secure" scheme just targeted to document hashes,
> > key/cert fingerprints, and key/cert-retrieval URLs, unless there's a
> > compelling reason to broaden it.
>Bitter experience says that it's always better to make the scheme as wide
>and extensible as possible. In particular, "why would you want that?" is
>almost a guaranteed recipe for later regrets.

If "secure" is restricted to crypto metadata, you could always define other 
schemes for different metadata types:


But I can't think of a type of metadata (besides crypto) where this would 
be a good idea.  I guess I perceive crypto data as not really "metadata" 
about the resource, but rather part of the resource's identity.  If you 
want to reliably retrieve a document, than knowing how to cryptographically 
authenticate the document (or document owner) is just as important as 
knowing its URL (at least in a sufficiently paranoid threat model).

In other words, this isn't just metadata to be used after resolving the 
URL, but is integral to the process of resolving it, and I can't think of 
other data that's similarly deserving of being bound to the URL.

>I also don't like "secure" because it isn't a secure link, it's a way of
>(in this case) checking that the target of the link hasn't changed. To most
>people, "secure" means untappable, as in the "s" of "https".

I think that every secure URL would provide authentication of some sort (of 
the document itself, in the form of a hash value, or of the party serving 
the document, in the form of a key fingerprint).

Some secure URLs would also provide confidentiality.  So "secure" here 
would mean "authenticated and possibly confidential".  I agree that some 
people might assume confidentiality, but that's a minor problem, and it's 
not uncommon to talk about, for example, XML-Security, and mean both 
XML-DSIG and XML-Encryption, so I think lots of people understand security 
has both authentication and confidentiality aspects to it.

Received on Wednesday, 30 April 2003 16:46:20 UTC

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