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Re: Fwd: backronym proposal: Universal Resource Linker

From: Sandro Hawke <sandro@w3.org>
Date: Sun, 18 Apr 2010 10:38:45 -0400
To: nathan@webr3.org
cc: Dan Brickley <danbri@danbri.org>, Semantic Web <semantic-web@w3.org>, public-lod <public-lod@w3.org>
Message-ID: <23861.1271601525@waldron>
> Wonder what would happen if we just called them "Links"?
> Seems to be pretty unambiguous, if I say "Link" to TimBL or my Mum they
> both know what I mean, and it appears to produce the desired mental
> picture when used.
> Link, short for HyperLink - Link as in Linked Data.
> Keep the URI/URL/IRI for those who need to know the exact syntax of a Link.
> ?

I strongly support danbri's critique; I don't quite agree on his

In particular, I think "Locator" is just fine for the L in URL.  I bet
99% of the world is perfectly comfortable with the idea that "location"
on the web means "website".  Think about it: we say "website" with no
problem.  Meanwhile, in English, "site" and "location" are nearly
perfect synonyms.

Some of the push for URNs came from a notion that is now obviously
absurd, that using a URL confined you to one particular machine room.
(I agree it's still harder than it should be to distribute the servers
for a website, but it is possible, and nearly all the big sites do it.
It's not that hard; www.w3.org was served from hosts on different
continents in the mid-90s.)

In speaking, I feely use "link", "address", and "Web address" (along
with URL and URI), with slightly different connotations.  To me, a link
is a more abstract entity than an URL, comprising both the occurance of
some link text and the resource identified by that link text.  In
particular, due to the state of the world, without changing the link
text, a link can become broken.  So the link is not the link text, when
we're being very precise.  "Address" and "Web address" are good, but to
me they emphasize the use in a browser, by humans.  If I want to
emphasize the string of characters, and particularly a string of
characters that might not lead to a human-usable website, then URL or
URI is better.

I think the difference between URL and URI is that you can, when the
system is functioning properly, dereference URLs.  That's not
necessarily the case with URIs.  In RDF, you are required to use some
kind of URIs/IRIs.  In Linked Data, your URIs also need to be URLs.

IRIs raise a different problem.  There's a crucial technical difference
between IRIs and URIs.  In specs, we have to be very careful about which
we're talking about.  (IRIs are unicode strings, URIs are ascii strings.
If an interface (like HTTP) can only handle ascii, I need to know that
fact, so I can percent-encode my non-ascii characters first.)  Of
course, most people don't want to care about this, and many don't need
to.  I'm hoping that "URL" can gloss over this difference.

In short, I propose that whenever we might say "URI" or "IRI", but we
intend it to be dereferenceable, we just say "URL".  When doing Linked
Data, all URIs should be derefeferenceable, so in the Linked Data world,
we should pretty much always just say "URL".  This what I've been doing,
more and more over the years, and I haven't seen it cause any problems.

(Come on in, the water is fine.)

     -- Sandro

> Dan Brickley wrote:
> > So - I'm serious. The term 'URI' has never really worked as something
> > most Web users encounter and understand.
> > 
> > For RDF, SemWeb and linked data efforts, this is a problem as our data
> > model is built around URIs.
> > 
> > If 'URL' can be brought back from limbo as a credible technical term,
> > and rebranded around the concept of 'linkage', I think it'll go a long
> > way towards explaining what we're up to with RDF.
> > 
> > Thoughts?
> > 
> > Dan
> > 
> > 
> > ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> > From: Dan Brickley <danbri@danbri.org>
> > Date: Sun, Apr 18, 2010 at 11:52 AM
> > Subject: backronym proposal: Universal Resource Linker
> > To: uri@w3.org
> > Cc: Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>
> > 
> > 
> > I'll keep this short. The official term for Web identifiers, URI,
> > isn't widely known or understood. The I18N-friendly variant IRI
> > confuses many (are we all supposed to migrate to use it; or just in
> > our specs?), while the most widely used, understood and (for many)
> > easiest to pronounce, 'URL' (for Uniform Resource Locator) has been
> > relegated to 'archaic form' status. At the slightest provocation this
> > community dissapears down the rathole of URI-versus-URN, and until
> > this all settles down we are left with an uncomfortable disconnect
> > between how those in-the-know talk about Web identifiers, and those
> > many others who merely use it.
> > 
> > As of yesterday, I've been asked "but what is a URI?" one too many
> > times. I propose a simple-minded fix: restore 'URL' as the most
> > general term for Web identifiers, and re-interpret 'URL' as "Universal
> > Resource Linker". Most people won't care, but if they investigate,
> > they'll find out about the re-naming. This approach avoids URN vs URI
> > kinds of distinction, scores 2 out of 3 for use of intelligible words,
> > and is equally appropriate to classic browser/HTML, SemWeb and other
> > technical uses. What's not to like? The Web is all about links, and
> > urls are how we make them...
> > 
> > cheers,
> > 
> > Dan
> > 
> > 
> > 
Received on Sunday, 18 April 2010 14:38:49 UTC

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