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Re: web proper names

From: Graham Klyne <GK@ninebynine.org>
Date: Tue, 21 Sep 2004 11:34:39 +0100
Message-Id: <>
To: Henry Story <henry.story@bblfish.net>, www-rdf-interest@w3.org

At 15:29 20/09/04 +0200, Henry Story wrote:

>I have just come across a very well written paper by Harry Halpin and 
>Henry S. Thompson called "Web Proper Names: Naming Referents on the Web" 
>[1]. I don't feel comfortable with the proposed solution to the problem, 
>but I do feel he has described the problem itself very well, and given a 
>very good summary of the philosophical debate behind it.

>[1] http://www.cogsci.ed.ac.uk/~ht/webpropernames/

Nice paper.  As you say, the issues are well exposed.  Thanks for pointing 
it out.

>Would it perhaps not be easier to extend RDF so that one can point to a 
>resource in either way, for example by allowing the following:
><Entry rdf:about="http://www.paris.org/Monuments/Eiffel">
><Entry rdf:refers="http://www.paris.org/Monuments/Eiffel">

I think that would be a grave mistake.  It would devastate the currently 
specified RDF semantics by introducing a whole new level of description
("theory of reference"?) into the underlying language.  The Halpin/Thompson 
paper at least keeps that issue separate from the core language.  As they 
say: "Unfortunately, no-one from professional logicians to philosophers of 
consciousness have a solid idea about how we determine whether or not a 
thing is actually about something else."

I, too, am not entirely comfortable with the proposed solution, but I will 
note that it seems to have (some) similarities with two other expressed 
viewpoints on this:

(1) Larry Masinter has proposed a new URI scheme that effectively adds the 
indirection (tdb:, or "that described by") [2].  I think I prefer Larry's 
approach of a simple URI scheme to leverage existing URI reference 
structures rather than introducing a new wpn: URI scheme that seems to 
embody and replicate much of the existing URI machinery.

[2] http://larry.masinter.net/duri.html

(2) Tim Berners-Lee's own position concerning http: URIs (see [3]) is to 
suggest that they refer strictly to the web page of "information resource", 
which I take to correspond to Halpin/Thompson's "expression", and further 
dereference must be applied (e.g. using fragment identifiers) to arrive at 
Halpin/Thompson's "denotation".  (I'm uncomfortable about putting that much 
burden on the sometimes-elusive fragment identifier.)

[3] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/issues.html#httpRange-14
which indirectly refers to:


Graham Klyne
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Received on Tuesday, 21 September 2004 11:39:10 UTC

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