Re: Globalizing URIs

Jon Knight (
Fri, 11 Aug 1995 21:32:42 +0100 (BST)

Date: Fri, 11 Aug 1995 21:32:42 +0100 (BST)
From: Jon Knight <>
To: Martin J Duerst <>
Subject: Re: Globalizing URIs
In-Reply-To: <>
Message-Id: <>

On Fri, 11 Aug 1995, Martin J Duerst wrote:
> URLs have a user-friendly character set; the problem is only that
> this user-friendliness is limited to English-speaking people.
> People use this facility to encode as much semantics as possible.
> You might have agreed that you didn't want to go for user-friendly
> names, but finally, you did! For those who were not really aware
> of the issues of extended character sets for multilingual purposes,
> it was fully user-friendly from the beginning.

OK, so URLs as currently defined let you use words which unwitting 
service providers and users can inadvertantly attach semantic meanings 
in languages that can be expressed in ASCII.  Thus we blew it (or rather 
it was already blown for us; the IETF URLs sprang out of what the WWW people 
had already got going).  URLs are out there now and people are going to 
carry on doing what they're already doing.  I'm afraid we're stuck with 
URLs and all the attendant transcribability problems and (now) character 
set problems.

Lets not blow it again for URNs then, eh?  If we stick to just numbers for
the URNs then we can have check digits and error correcting codes in them
to help ensure error-free transcriptions by humans (and publishers for UK
Guardian newspaper readers :-)).  We also completely avoid the messy
character set encoding wars that are taking place on some mailing lists
now.  After all, everyone who uses a web browser or other URN enabled
application that at some point requires them to enter a URN by hand (which
should be rarely hopefully) has arabic numbers on their keyboards[*]. And
people are going to be much harder pressed to assign extraneous semantics
to a string of numbers. 

Problem solved then; numbers it is. :-)


* The first person to say ``No'' will be responsible for me sitting in a 
corner of my office saying ``wibble'' quietly to myself. :-)

Jon Knight, Researcher, Sysop and General Dogsbody, Department of Computer
Studies, Loughborough University of Technology, Leics., ENGLAND.  LE11 3TU.
*** Nothing looks so like a man of sense as a fool who holds his tongue ***