Can namespaces survive name changes?

Arcadian Vision, an interesting place created by a person (I'm not sure who…) with deep knowledge of Ruby, thinks the namespace change problem I explained earlier today could have been avoided if we were using namespace schemes with a “little more indirection”. His thinking seems to spontaneously head in the same direction as Drummond Reed's.

Kim Cameron writes about namespace changes relating to Microsoft’s Cardspace initiative. The explanations offered sound good, but it’s hard to not be somewhat annoyed if you’re the one patching your code as a result of this change. This also reminds me of a few unconnected experiences that revolve, at least somewhat, around the permanence of URIs. URIs used to denote namespaces often (typically?) aren’t actually valid URLs. They specify a transfer protocol, but they’re not actually meant to be used with that protocol (e.g. they don’t link to documentation about that namespace). It seems to me that this is doubling the burden on a mechanism that isn’t necessarily appropriate. I suppose the argument goes that you control your domain, so you can split that resource among its various responsibilities. Sounds shaky to me, but let’s see where it leads us.

He reaches the conclusion:

So when I put it all together, I’m using my domain name to identify namespaces that are potentially distinct from the content served up via HTTP from that domain. I’m also using my domain name to locate information that isn’t intrinsically related to my domain. I think there’s a blog in there, too. Personally, I’m going to closely watch Google Base to see if it catches on. I could host my own data but have a unique Google Base identifier for it that I can edit to reflect changes in where I’m keeping my data. So how about rather than using a URI to identify my namespace, I identify it as this, which is a unique identifier, can be annotated with relevant metadata (like a link to documentation), and won’t screw anyone else up if I change the URL of my website.

I find it interesting that someone would think of using Google Base as a kind of XRI.  That's pretty far out of the box.  I can hear schema-addicts writhing in pain, but no one can argue with the simplicity of Arcadian's scheme.

Regardless, I think the case of whether to put InfoCard claims under “” or “” turns on a different set of issues.  I think the move makes a statement – that is a part of the essence of the InfoCard system – about the cross-industry character of the technology.  In other words, the semantics of the work are becoming richer as a result of the move.

In terms of using Google Base and names like , doesn't that have a fixed root too?  Arcadian ends up still being tied to a domain-based system, and the more he goes down this path, the more he will find himself becoming dependent on the domain.  If his approach were to become popular, everyone would be making themselves progressively more dependent on a single namespace with a commercial purpose and future – a course one shouldn't adopt without careful thought.

Arcardian should look at Drummond Reed's work before adopting conventional search engines for this particular purpose.  It introduces a framework of persistent identifiers that sit behind transient namespaces, and provides a mapping service with, as I understand it, no central commercial owner.  In other words, the indirection is offered through a new commons.  You can get an intro here and here.


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Kim Cameron

Work on identity.

One thought on “Can namespaces survive name changes?”

  1. Kim, I think my last paragraph that begins, “Do I think XML namespaces should be defined as dependent on Google Base? No, but it’s a start.” goes towards some of what you point out. You're absolutely right that there's a gaping hole in the plan, and I was intentionally being contrary (aka, outside the box) just because I personally find it hard to argue with URIs who have history and weight of implementation on their side. In an earlier post I mentioned the idea of just using Kademlia for everything as an extreme in a direction away from centralization.

    I don't think either suggestion, Kademlia or Google Base, is the right thing to do, but I also find myself unhappy with the current situation, so I like to encourage conversation on the matter. I find myself sympathetic to XRIs, but not swept away.

    As for who I am, I did not intend for that to be a secret! The apparent pseudonym is simply a function of having purchased a domain name some years ago. I will flesh out the About page soon.

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