Noah Mendelsohn posted a pre-draft about some thoughts on resources, information resources and representations, in which he tries to make sense of the never-ending debate on httpRange-14 httpRedirections-57.

I’ve been vaguely following this discussion on the W3C TAG mailing list for some time and, against my better judgement, I feel a need to comment on the suggestions. Actually, that’s not quite right, since I really don’t have any polite comments to make on the suggestions, and I wouldn’t want to offend my friends on the TAG.

Instead, I’ll just ask a few questions about this one sentence:

A key requirement of the Semantic Web is that URIs be used
to identify resources unambiguously.


  • What makes that a key requirement of the Semantic Web?
  • What makes the TAG think it is feasible to satisfy that requirement?
  • How will the TAG know when the requirement is (or isn’t) satisfied?
  • If someone can show that this requirement is inherently unsatisfiable, doesn’t that imply the Semantic Web will never happen?

Or, is it not a requirement, and all these proposals are just an excuse to avoid designing a Semantic Web that would actually work within the same problem space of the current Web?

I don’t want the Web to constrain what people do: the Web
is not there to constrain society. It’s there to model society
in its completeness, in its entirety. [Tim Berners-Lee, 1994]

Have we forgotten why?

On the Web, millions of people mint URIs, and millions more use them in references. Millions of human beings, conversing over time, with an occasional URI thrown in to refer to a subject under discussion.

When was the last time you had an unambiguous discussion?