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rationalizing identifier [was Re: Rationalizing the term URI]

From: John A. Kunze <jak@ckm.ucsf.edu>
Date: Thu, 23 Jan 2003 10:41:20 -0800 (PST)
To: Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>
cc: uri@w3.org, <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.4.44.0301230938090.28178-100000@tweety.ckm.ucsf.edu>

> --- On Thu, 23 Jan 2003, Tim Berners-Lee wrote:
> I would very much like us to take the opportunity to clean up the
> terminology on the URI spec which has confused people.

There's a separate problem with terminology that has unfortunately
steered many persistent identifier discussions into a ditch.

If changes to basic terminology are up, consider how damaging it is that
this seminal web spec defines an identifier as "a sequence of characters".
It's then impossible to talk sensibly about a broken identifier (hmmm,
are we talking about missing or damaged characters?).

It's the reference role that breaks.  Much better to be explicit:

	An identifier is an association between a string
	(a sequence of characters) and an information resource.

In full generality, that association is made manifest by a "record" (eg,
a cataloging or other metadata record) that binds the identifier string
to a set of identifying resource characteristics.  For the average URL,
that record's existence is implied if the URL string, when submitted to
a web server, returns some document that is a webmaster's attempt to
realize the correct binding.

An especially nice result of this definition is that it permits people
to more quickly conclude that there's no reason why a URL can't be just
as persistent as any other identifier (if not more so).  It's all about
the service behind it.

But that's a case to be made elsewhere.  The URI spec would do electronic
permanence a favor if it included this one definitional change.

-John
Received on Thursday, 23 January 2003 13:47:59 GMT

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