W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-rdf-logic@w3.org > February 2001

Re: universal languages

From: Jonathan Borden <jborden@mediaone.net>
Date: Tue, 6 Feb 2001 13:10:06 -0500
Message-ID: <01b401c09068$09e84770$0a2e249b@nemc.org>
To: "pat hayes" <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>, "Stefan Decker" <stefan@db.stanford.edu>
Cc: <www-rdf-logic@w3.org>
Stefan Decker wrote;
> Disclaimer: I'am not saying that the OID should point to anything
> retrievable. All that is necessary is the ability to construct
> a global unique object identifier for a given entity.
> URIs seem to be one way to do this, however, certainly extensions
> are necessary.

    I'll say it then. A URI should point to something. If a URI doesn't
point to anything, then it is no more useful than any of the other myriad
types of OID/UID mechanisms. Simply using a URI to create an OID is ho
hum... what makes a URI interesting in this regards is the possibility of
retreiving something, perhaps a description of what is being named. A URI
that identifies a person might reference a CV, for example, or a schema that
describes to a machine how to parse such a CV, or whatever else might be

    If we are just talking about representing abstract information as a
directed graph, been there, done that, ho hum. The difference is that there
exists an infrastructure, DNS, web servers etc. which has already been
widely implemented and can assist in dereferencing arcs. Certainly there are
other ways to identify things and talk about things, but the bottom line is
that such other mechanisms don't have millions of waiting and willing Apache


> >
> >Believe me, I am vividly aware of what those limits are. I've been
> >in AI for 25 years. But machines can draw conclusions from axioms which
> >not use URI's, for sure.

And that's as useful today as it was 25 years ago.

> >
> >>The whole point for using URIs
> >>is that they are decentralized; anyone can set one up. While it is true
> >>that you can't use URIs to represent everything, you can use them to
> >>anything which is namable.
> >
> >Well, that is either trivial or false. You can, of course, put a name at
> >location with a URI and then use that. So in that sense URI's are
> >universal, but that's a trivial sense, In that sense every piece of paper
> >is in an envelope because you could put it in one.  But it is not true
> >that every possible *name* is a URI. My name is not a URI. "Boston" is
> >a URI, and neither is "4,367".
> >

Your name, "Boston" and "4,367"  each have an unlimited number of URIs e.g.


This URI references a collection of 7,200,000 other URIs each of which
reference a resource that at least at one time contained the term "Boston"

That is just one example. Rather than questioning whether using URIs is
useful, perhaps we should be discussing ways to improve on what millions of
people already use on almost a daily basis. Unfortunately pubmed uses HTTP
POST rather than GET or I could give perhaps a more compelling example from
the medical literature.We've also had MEDLINE for the last 25 years but
MEDLINE on the web, accessable to the entire population, is a great benefit.

To me, the question isn't whether or not to use URIs, rather how to better
use URIs.

Jonathan Borden
The Open Healthcare Group
Received on Tuesday, 6 February 2001 13:24:08 UTC

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