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Re: URIs for Physical Items

From: Michael Mealling <michael@bailey.dscga.com>
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000 08:11:00 -0400
To: "Paskin, Norman (DOI-ELS)" <n.paskin@doi.org>
Cc: "'uri@w3.org'" <uri@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20001016081100.G10886@bailey.dscga.com>
On Mon, Oct 16, 2000 at 09:44:53AM +0100, Paskin, Norman (DOI-ELS) wrote:
> No, URLs are not appropriate for designating physical items:
> 1. A physical item may exist in multiple copies.  ISBNs for example do not
> refer to a specific copy of a book; they identify the class of all copies in
> an edition.  It is useful to identify the class not a specific instance of
> it. 
> 2. A user may well wish to differentiate between a website (URL) -e.g. for
> maintenenace, administration; and the entity currently avaiulable at that
> website.  If the URl is used for one it cannot be used for the other.  
> 3. For management of contnent many people require a persistent identifier. 

Just to be clear here:

URIs can and are used to identify physical objects. RFC 2396 very
explicitly states:

         A resource can be anything that has identity.  Familiar
         examples include an electronic document, an image, a service
         (e.g., "today's weather report for Los Angeles"), and a
         collection of other resources.  Not all resources are network
         "retrievable"; e.g., human beings, corporations, and bound
         books in a library can also be considered resources.

Thus I can easily envision a service whereby if you resolve an ISBN URN
you actually get the book on your doorstep in under an hour via Kozmo.com's
local delivery service. Its a slightly longer latency than we're used to
but it works just the same.

Now, WRT to the second half of his question: is it appropriate to use
an http URL to do that? IMHO, it is technically allowed by 2396 but the 
semantics surrounding what http has come to mean to the average user has 
made it problematic to use it as such. I would be very hesitant to use
it to identify physical objects but would use something like a URN or
a new URI scheme to do so (we're using the PIN URN to name people and


Michael Mealling	|      Vote Libertarian!       | www.rwhois.net/michael
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Received on Monday, 16 October 2000 08:21:13 UTC

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