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Re: [httpRange-14] What do HTTP URIs Identify?

From: Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2002 10:53:22 -0600
Cc: "'Miles Sabin'" <miles@milessabin.com>, www-tag@w3.org
To: "Bullard, Claude L (Len)" <clbullar@ingr.com>
Message-Id: <02DE7C66-AE14-11D6-9006-000393914268@w3.org>
On Monday, August 5, 2002, at 11:53 AM, Bullard, Claude L (Len) 
wrote:-----Original Message-----
From: Miles Sabin [mailto:miles@milessabin.com]

Tim Berners-Lee wrote,

"Er... and how do you disallow identifiers from identifying whatever
people think they identify?", you ask.

By specifications, darn it!

(Len:) Where the consumers of those specifications are relatively few in 
and have comparatively aligned interests this can be made to work (viz.
the W3C). But the semantic web has considerably grander ambitions and
the consumers of its specs are (hopefully) considerably more numerous
and diverse in their interests. Attempting to coral those consumers is
likely to be about as successful as the Academic Francaise's attempts
to banish imported anglicisms from French. It would be a shame if the
W3C ended up looking similarly pompous and preposterous.

You miss a fundamental difference.  The Academie Francaise was
trying to create a single vocabulary for all communication, and to
mandate its use throughout France.  This flies in the face of the
way natural language really works.

1. The Semantic Web will have many vobaularies, and
all the W3C will standardize is to inftastructure rules
which make it work - the architecture of HTTP and RDF, etc.

2. The Semantic Web is a logical system, not a natural language
system. We are defining it -- engineering it -- in a different
way to natural language, deliberately, so that it can have
very consistent properties.

> Ah... but where the assets are critical, it is a good
> idea to give teeth to this, to lash the competitors for
> the URI together with knives.

I don't understand that paragraph, but continuing:

> Because of competing organizations for specifications,
> a code specification alone won't do the job, TimBL.
> It simply won't.
> The world is full of people and organizations which
> flout that and always will.  For those that see
> specifications for critical systems to be of such
> value that flouting them is dangerous for the polity
> at large, the specification must have the force of
> law and it must have teeth.  The W3C is a vendor
> consortium by your own choice and design.  That makes
> it the wrong polity to dispense law.

W3C does not dispense law.  All it can do, like any
group making standards, is to define what a URI
identifies, what an HTTP message means, etc.
It is the best body to do that because the US Congress
and the United  Nations are not practitioners in the
arts of global system engineering.  Nor do the
bodies  which do make laws generally do engineering.

Technical specifications work together.
If the W3C makes a spec which clearly  (enough)
states what a document (say a P3P privacy policy)
means, then governments may, in their elected
authority, make adherence to the spec mandatory.
Also, the courts may, in the event that a fraudulent
misrepresentation has been made in a P3P
document, refer to the W3C specification, as
anyone making a P3P policy will typically
assumed by the courts to be responsible for the
statement made as interpreted by the spec.

So the law and the specifications work together.
Specs should not be made by lawyers, and
laws by technical people, but they should be aware
of each other's fields.

> Isolate out the pieces which are mission critical
> and must have the force of law, then submit these
> specifications to ISO for standardization where the
> mebers are nation-states with the authority granted
> by the people to dispense law "of the people, by
> the people, for the people".  This is not poetry,
> philosophical irrelevance, or rhetoric:  it is the
> principle which governs and maintains governance
> best, by example, and by historical proof.

I am sorry to diillusion you, but ISO has no such
authority granted by the people in general.
ISO is a collection of national standards bodies,
and national standards bodies are effectively industry-based
consortia.  Any claim by ISO to be more representative
than W3C or IETF  would be a matter of great debate.

> You cannot solve it in code, Tim.

I said that the specifications must define it.
That is not solving it in code.
It is the right of W3C (or any other group)
to define a technical system by making
specifications.  There is an implicit agreement
that when you use such as system, you
operate under the terms of the specifications.

Just as when you fill in a tax form, you operate under the
form author's definition of what the fields mean.

I think that this principle should probably more
widely and clearly stated, or we will see many more attacks
such as the spammers who claim that they can put
anything in RDF822 header fields, because
"internet specifications aren't laws".
They aren't laws, but they define the meaning of messages,
and to lie in such a message is fraudulent under existing law.

>   It does have a
> social component, so society must choose.

Society can chose whether to mandate that everyone
uses the semantic web -- unlikely.
Society can chose whether, individual by individual,
one wants to use the semantic web.
But once one uses it,  the meaning of ones messages
is deemed to be defined by the specifications.
And the law should and I hope will uphold that.


> len
Received on Monday, 12 August 2002 12:53:24 UTC

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