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Re: [Uri-review] the "ni:" URI scheme soon to "last call" in IETF -- security concern

From: Jonathan A Rees <rees@mumble.net>
Date: Tue, 8 May 2012 08:13:55 -0400
Message-ID: <CAGnGFMJEqeWqab1fKa+RyajsLjURWD+ug-_8BmhY88DLMBQ95Q@mail.gmail.com>
To: Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>
Cc: www-archive@w3.org
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In reply to: http://www.ietf.org/mail-archive/web/uri-review/current/msg01584.html

On Mon, May 7, 2012 at 8:51 PM, Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com> wrote:
> Since I'm quoted, I thought I better clarify:
>
> "Persistence" and "Permanently" are acts of intention -- a name is "persistent" or "permanent" if there is a credible SLA by some current and future resolution service, where the service promises to be the authority (forever) for telling everyone what a name means or identifies.

Although I've read what you've written on this subject I'm still not
clear on your theory of "persistence" so I'd like to try to draw you
out.

Can you give me an example of a persistent name for which such a
"credible SLA" exists?

SLAs as I understand them are contracts and as such only last a few
years; they are certainly never "permanent".

When I think of persistent naming, I think of the following examples:
  - The RFC series
  - The IANA registries
  - The DOI system
  - The chemical element symbols
  - The names and orbital parameters of asteroids
  - The "binomial" system of biological nomenclature
What examples do you have in mind?

You are right that all of these systems involve "acts of intention"
consisting usually of social acts of publication and dissemination.
The typical ni: URI will probably not involve any such act (although
in principle it could). If this is the main thing you're saying then
we're totally in agreement.

But none of these involve SLAs or even promises on the part of
institutions providing the persistence. None even relies on the
existence of a single resolving agency in perpetuity. Most don't
involve any specific effort on anyone's part to provide persistence
specifically for that system; persistence just happens because the
society in general, and its "memory institutions" in particular, wants
the things that have managed to find their way into these collections
to persist.

Although no such source guarantees a "resolution service", as a matter
of fact there have usually been librarians acting in that role, eager
to help you find these things. In recent years sometimes they have set
up web servers to help with the job of resolution.

For example, the RFC series does not depend on IETF. There are copies
of the RFCs stored in Internet archives, so if IETF disappeared one
day the documents and their resolvability would persist.

Similarly, the persistence of binomial names depend only on getting
their defining publications into a few research libraries. If any one
library burned down, the names would persist by virtue of having their
"meanings" recorded in other libraries.

Similarly for DOIs; the catalog (metadata) has backup copies in memory
institutions, as do almost all of the identified documents. Like ICZN,
the IDF is only a facilitator for a system that belongs to the world,
not an "owner".

But in none of these cases has anyone set up an "SLA" or even made a
credible promise.

> The "ni:" scheme does not provide a persistent name for anything other than chunks of data.

This seems to contradict what you just said. I would think some ni:
URIs could be considered "persistent names" even if most aren't. it
would depend either on the particular ni: and on empirical truth
(supposing we had 200-year-old ni: URIs) or a bettable story (such as
storage and cataloguing in some number of "memory institutions"). When
you contrast "chunks of data" with, say, RFCs, what distinction are
you drawing - are you referring to the problem of digital media
obsolescence, which might be frustrated if someone cataloguing ni:
URIs was not on top of the problem of format upgrades? Or just the
fact that the RFCs reside in memory institutions and we have no reason
to expect that any ni: will (although one could)?

Certainly there have been binomial names and DOIs that have not
persisted. That this is the case does not call the others into doubt.

Whether there is a kind of persistence other than what the memory
institutions offer (collectively, via replication) is, I think,
unclear. National archives burn down, etc.

Do you have a different idea of how "persistence" works?

Best
Jonathan
Received on Tuesday, 8 May 2012 12:14:30 UTC

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