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I am working on something just now that is starting to bring up a lot of
questions like this.
The easy way to go about it is to just say it is an identifier of
something - plain and simple. But I get the feeling they can be a lot
more useful than that.
Since the URN name space can be resolved with DNS servers, then if you
query a DSN server for a particular name which is part of a name space
(ex: ISBN name space) then if the DNS server replies that the name space
doesn't exist, you a have a good clue that it is probably a
"non-digital" name space. Otherwise, the DNS server returns one or more
URLs giving you the different location where this resource resides.
Didier PH Martin