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   domain names distinct from knowledge names (was: XLink a special case in

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  • From: "Steven R. Newcomb" <srn@techno.com>
  • To: cowan@locke.ccil.org
  • Date: Sun, 21 May 2000 20:26:18 -0500

[John Cowan:]
> Then work hard on getting the FPI registration process repaired,
> so that there is a stable alternative.

Why that particular name registry?  

Why can't there be lots of name registries, for all kinds of names,
offering all kinds of name registration services?  A namespace really
ought to be managed by the stakeholders in that namespace, and not by
some gigantic faceless internet bureaucracy that collects internet
domain-namespace taxes.  I don't see where it's desirable for a
network name addressing/resolution service to be the underlying name
service for all namespaces.  

In fact, I'll go so far as to say it's a bad idea.

We all really need the internet address-resolution namespace to
fulfill a completely different purpose, namely network addressing.
The network's addressing resolution namespace gets chewed up for
reasons that have nothing to do with the resolution of addresses.
Specific knowledge-names become high-value investments, and the owner
of a domain name can in many ways own the corresponding vocabularies
that have already been used in high-value documents.  This doesn't
sound a design for improving the quality of human communication.  It
sounds ridiculous.  It sounds like it's trying to be a tool for
concentrating power over human expression, with the ultimate
concentration of power being those who control the internet domain
namespace -- making Internic and its ilk sort of like a commodity
marts, where the valuable commodities are the vocabularies that people
have already implemented in their systems and used in their
information assets.

The vocabularies we use to communicate all kinds of information with
each other should not be tied to internet addresses.  The internet is
one thing, and the words we use to communicate meaningfully with each
other is a completely different thing.  The only reason to assume that
we must all use domain-name-centric vocabularies is because the W3C
Recommends it.  The Namespace Recommendation repurposes some of the
necessary infrastructure of the internet itself in such a way as to
promote the idea that the registry of domain names is (or should
become) somehow indispensable for the management of human
knowledge-names.  (I suppose that if I believed that the internet is
actually at the center of the universe of all universes, I might be
fooled into believing this bizarre notion.)

It seems to me that the knowledge-name registry industry (as distinct
from the internet domain-name registry industry) would offer better
services to the public if there were more serious mass-market-level
competitors in that industry.  I just don't believe that the
internet's telephone book of paying customers will expand in its
functions so prodigiously that it will be needed or used in every
semantic operation.  There is no reason why it should, and there is
every reason to believe that the domain namespace will be irrelevant
to most semantic operations, even if the W3C insists that it must be
be relevant by Recommending that the identity of every vocabulary be
expressed as an internet URI.

In fact, for really powerful content management, it's essential to
keep addressing distinct from semantics.  URIs are addresses.  It's a
bad idea to force a URI into the role of being the one true identity
an idea or set of ideas, if only because ideas last a lot longer than
system addresses do.  I'd sure hate to lose track of ideas at the same
rate that internet domain names change hands.  (Growing older is bad
enough as it is!)

There are quite a few namespace services that can be usefully offered,
some of them quite specialized, and many having nothing to do with
internet-style networking.  Why does there need to be *any* sort of
central naming authority for knowledge-names, as distinct from
internet-addressing-names?  And why should the current owner of an
internet domain name have *any* special privileges on account of how
other people have chosen to express and manipulate their knowledge?


Steven R. Newcomb, President, TechnoTeacher, Inc.
srn@techno.com  http://www.techno.com  ftp.techno.com

NEW ADDRESS effective May 1, 2000:

voice: +1 972 359 8160
fax    +1 972 359 0270

405 Flagler Court
Allen Texas 75013-2821 USA

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