Web Resource Identity

Paul Prescod paul at prescod.net
Fri May 28 23:17:30 BST 1999

Tim Bray wrote:
> It's pretty crystal-clear that at the moment, given the existence of
> content negotiation, the web has no built-in concept of a canonical URI.
> While the idea has been attractive ever since Ted Nelson postulated (30
> years ago) that in a networked environment there ought really only to be
> one instance of each object, all the attempts that I know of to address
> the issue of canonically naming things have shuffled down the path to
> dusty death, either quickly or slowly.

I don't see why it would be a big deal.

Server developers would have a convention that defines "default" canonical
URLs to everything. So http://www.foo.bar/index.html would return

They would also provide a mechanism for overriding the canonical URL on a
per-document basis so that you could state that a particular file is
really a mirror of another document. If you don't do that, its a different

> This doesn't worry me.  As Dan Connolly will tell you until your ears
> bleed, if you are an organization that cares about persistence, uniqueness,
> and managing your web space properly, there's nothing about plain ol' URLs
> that gets in the way.  

I think that there is. I think that it is perfectly reasonable to want to
have more than one URL for the same logical resource and allow RDF and
XLink attachment to both names for the thing. The most obvious example is
in mirroring.

> I am doubtful that any canonical-addressing scheme can
> combat the human propensity to screw up sometimes. -Tim

That's not so much what I'm worried about. I think that having multiple
names for a thing can be good practice both because names are human
readable and because they are tied to machines. If I am right, then this
(reasonable) practice should not mess up the Web's fundamental concept of

 Paul Prescod  - ISOGEN Consulting Engineer speaking for only himself

Alabama's constitution is 100 years old, 300 pages long and has more than
600 amendments. Highlights include "Amendment 393: Amendment of Amendment
No.  351", "Validation of Laws Regulating Court Costs in Randolph County",
"Miscegenation laws", "Bingo Games in Russell County", "Suppression
of dueling".  - http://www.legislature.state.al.us/ALISHome.html

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