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info, doi, short names, and registration services

From: Larry Masinter <LMM@acm.org>
Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2003 08:44:55 -0700
To: uri@w3.org
Message-id: <003b01c37944$d069fd90$6401a8c0@MasinterT40>

Perhaps there's another way to think about the
issues (for 'doi' and 'info') without name-calling.

Their definitions are tied up with the service guarantee
of a registration organization. The definition of
"info" depends on the service guarantee of NISO, since
NISO is maintaining the registry of schemes. The definition
of "doi" depends on the service guarantee of IDF, since
IDF is maintaining the registry of dois. (This isn't
different from URNs, where the meaning of a URN and the
promise of uniqueness depends on the service guarantee
of the namespace holder.)

Whenever there is a service guarantee and a namespace,
the question still arises:

What happens if something happens to the organization that
is making the service guarantee? Organizations change.
They lose interest in providing a service, decide there
is no interest, lose funding, are acquired, merge, go out
of business. Some organizations have more stability than

With most assignment-registry namespaces in URIs, the issue
then becomes: what would happen with the deployed names
if there is an organizational change? With DNS based
schemes (http, ftp, mailto), the answer may not be
pretty but it is understandable: you get either a DNS failure 
(the host name lookup fails), or a protocol error: TCP
error, 404 not found, mail bounce, etc.

With the proposed "doi" and "info" the question is
still open: what happens if the organizations that
is the root of the meaning of the name fails?

Certainly any URN namespace faces this as well, but at
least it is a requirements of a URN namespace application
that there be a credible assertion about permanence of
the name assigments. It seems like it is a requirement
of assigment-registry is some assertion about permanence.

Part of the reason for the process of URI scheme naming,
and asking for "demonstrated utility" (that it adds value
over other existing URI schemes) was to avoid putting
IANA into the business of being overloaded as the IETF's own
assignment-registry service.

I think there is a problem, though, in that we now have
non-profit or for-profit organizations who may have
operational plans based on getting the IETF
to accept the URI schemes named "doi" or "handle" or
"info". And the reasons for IETF not cooperating aren't

Some suggestions to consider:

* Redefining 'urn' to be more specifically reserved for
  'assignment-registry' services (whether for fee,
  for profit, non-profit, etc.), where 'permanence'
  is a requested attribute rather than a definitional

* Clarifying what is requested by 'demonstrated utility'
  in the URI registration process in a way that would
  dissuade assignment-registry services asking for additional
  URI names.

* Encouraging (or even forcing) those who still insist
  on a separate scheme to use 'vnd-' or 'prs-'.

* For 'doi' -- because the group pushing them has had some
  amount of marketing success -- allow the publication of
  the 'doi' draft as Informational, but with an IESG cover
  note that would discourage similar namespaces. This might
  resolve the difficulty without necessarily giving the
  IDF their desired imprimatur.

* For 'info', ask NISO to instead assist its sub-namespace
  authorities to register URN schemes, or to use 
  urn:us-niso: (to distinguish NISO from the National
  Irish Safety Organization and Norske Idrettsutøveres

Received on Friday, 12 September 2003 11:47:03 UTC

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