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Re: backronym proposal: Universal Resource Linker

From: Dan Brickley <danbri@danbri.org>
Date: Sun, 18 Apr 2010 20:13:35 +0200
Message-ID: <h2web19f3361004181113y760773ebv2a7c70e25d86d3e5@mail.gmail.com>
To: Ian Davis <me@iandavis.com>
Cc: Semantic Web <semantic-web@w3.org>, public-lod <public-lod@w3.org>
On Sun, Apr 18, 2010 at 7:40 PM, Ian Davis <me@iandavis.com> wrote:
> When talking to people who aren't semweb engineers then i use
> URL/URI/link interchangeably. I don't think it matters because the 1%
> that care will look it all up and get the distinction and the rest
> will just get on and use RDF as shown.

Yeah, I find myself slipping between the two in the same sentence
sometimes, even written or spoken.

I don't think it really super matters which we use, but the confusion
is costly and pointless.

At the Augmented Reality Dev Camp here in Amsterdam yesterday, one of
the comments was

    "So what is an URI? mentioned by steven pemberton and hans
overbeek #ardevcamp "

This is perfectly reasonable question from an educated and technical
audience member, and a perfectly avoidable one. I mean no disrespect
to either of the fine speakers, or the audience member; the mess is
not of their making. RDFa and Linked Data were presented to a mixed
audience, some coders, some artists, game designers, augmented
reality, mapping folk etc... a real big mix.; and I think it went over
well, but this silly issue of URI/URL is a bug worth fixing. We should
be able to say "URL" unapologetically, correctly and without fear of
contradiction. It's a fine acronym; it just has the wrong expansion.
Easily fixed, since most people (as you say) won't even bother to look
it up.

My suggestion is that we flip things upside down. Too often "URL"
comes across a being a kind of double-taboo (it's the old, incorrect
name .... and it's (to URN-advocates) the crappy, lower quality form
of linking, prone to breakage, 404 etc). People who use "URL" often do
it in a sort of self-deprecating way; they know they should probably
say "URI" or perhaps "IRI"; or maybe they really mean "URI Reference"
or is that "IRI Reference" to be really inclusive and modern? [And are
they called URI schemes now, or IRI schemes? I truly have no idea.]

So let's pull URL out from the bottom of the pile, reinstate it at the
top, and rework the acronym to remove the most troublesome part
"Locator". By flipping that to something link-centric, we re-emphasise
the core value of the Web, and turn the conversation away from
pointless ratholes like "names/IDs vs addresses/locations" to
something potentially *much* more productive: different types of
URL-based linking.

 * the whole mess around 'UR*' makes it hard for even technically
aware observers to talk clearly
 * we don't have an actively used "top term" in the tech scene for all
those identifying strings (URIs, URI Refs, IRIs, IRI Refs)
 * the deprecated nature of 'URL' means we don't reward people for
using it; we make them feel dumber instead of smarter. We say "URL?
yeah kinda, you probably really ought to say URI but don't worry, you
nearly got it" instead of "Yeah, URLs - universal resource linkers -
it's all about linking; if you understand URLs you understand the core
idea behind the Web" (and the Web of data, ... and the Web of things,

There was a fuss a while back when the HTML5 spec was using "URL"
instead of "URI"; however that was without the proposed
reconceptualisation here. I'd hate to stir up a fuss, but I think we
have a lot of interesting ingredients:

* the term 'URL' isn't being used in a technical sense currently - I
consider it available for careful redeployment
* many of us are already using it informally as an overarching
umbrella term ('cos we know it works)
* it has massive market-presence and is understood pretty well by the public
* we really badly need an umbrella term that hides the URI vs IRI vs
*RI-Ref distinction from normal humans
* 'universal resource linker' is loose and evocative enough to do the
job, and makes people feel smarter not dumber...


Received on Sunday, 18 April 2010 18:14:09 UTC

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