W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-tag@w3.org > July 2003

Re: resources and URIs

From: Tim Bray <tbray@textuality.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2003 09:36:38 -0700
Message-ID: <3F157F16.9020902@textuality.com>
To: Jonathan Borden <jonathan@openhealth.org>
Cc: pat hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>, www-tag@w3.org, Pat Hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>

Jonathan Borden wrote:

> A few questions:
> 1) You are making a clear distinction between the "Web" and the "semantic
> web". Is the TAG limited to "Web" issues, and is it the intention to define
> a "Web" as distinct from a "SW" ... I ask, because as a member of the WebOnt
> WG, I had assumed that the TAG was supposed to deal with issues involving
> potentially *any* of the W3C WGs/activities. Is it your specific intention
> to define an architecture for the "Web" as distinct from the "SW"? If so,
> I'll stop commenting on any of this.

One important differentiating characteristic is that today's Web 
concretely exists, is rather well-debugged, and is daily use by hundreds 
of millions.  I believe one important part of the TAG's mandate is to 
write down the architectural principles that underly this success story, 
which is all that the webarch doc has really tried to do up to this 
point in time.

I am not against the TAG trying to contribute to documenting 
architectural principles of the SW work (although I'd personally have 
little to contribute); but that is going to be much harder than 
documenting the empirically-observable principles that keep today's web 

> If we are going to concern the "SW" at least as it is incarnated in current
> activities and specific software products (i.e. RDF and OWL related
> software), then you may certainly be a part of the Web without a URI. Hence
> the statement is not correct in the SW context -- I'm not entirely convinced
> that it is correct in the 'current Web' context e.g.

This might be a nice clear clean differentiating principle, because I'm 
pretty convinced that at the moment, something that doesn't have a URI 
isn't part of the Web.

> Am *I* a part of the Web? I assert that I am a resource which is providing a
> representation via a proxy that is part of the Web (by your definition).
> That is to say my email address mailto:jonathan@openhealth.org is a URI by
> which folks may communicate with *me* but I assert that it is not *my URI*
> rather the URI of my mailbox. Is that a problem?

That's not a problem problem.  There is a resource identified by that 
URI.  Today's Web doesn't have any way to talk formally and 
machine-readably about what that resource is, so the issue of whether it 
identifies Dr. Borden or his emailbox is just not on the table.  Clearly 
the question of what the resource is is of concern to humans and is 
readily dealt with in human language; for example, your admirably-clear 
assertion of what you'd like mailto:jonathan@openhealth.org to mean. 
But today's Web doesn't care.

>>I don't understand the above.  URIs in the Web architecture are what
>>they are, and what they are is effectively defined by a huge universe of
>>deployed technology; they are character strings that can be used to look
>>things up in databases and to retrieve representations.  This is the
>>basis of the Web architecture.  If you want to use them as a basis for
>>building the SW, that's fine, but please don't try to stop us from
>>writing down an accurate description of reality as it empirically is.
> Certainly reality includes RDF applications which date back to 1999? Are you
> limiting your definition to HTTP servers? You ought not.

As noted above, it is appropriate to attack the problem of writing down 
the architectural bases of the SW world-view.  But today's Web will 
continue to exist independent of SW superstructure, however useful, and 
it's very important to capture the principles of its operation.  Which I 
think the webarch doc is starting to do a good job of.

>>We are *entirely* clear what URIs are in the context of the Web-that-is,
>>and we have the software to prove it.  We are trying to write down that
>>shared understanding.
> He he he. If we were *entirely* clear what URIs where, why all the endless
> arguments?

Because SW practitioners are trying to impose their world-view on a 
reality that operates independently of it.

Cheers, Tim Bray
         (ongoing fragmented essay: http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/)
Received on Wednesday, 16 July 2003 13:53:32 UTC

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