[rfc-i] "canonical" URI for RFCs, BCPs

Joe Touch touch at ISI.EDU
Mon Feb 1 09:45:43 PST 2010

Julian Reschke wrote:
> Paul Hoffman wrote:
>> At 6:02 PM +0100 2/1/10, Julian Reschke wrote:
>>> John R Levine wrote:
>>>> ...
>>>>> For the exceptions above, that should return the PS. For all
>>>>> others, it should return the TXT.
>>>> Honestly, that strikes me as being the absolute worst of all
>>>> possible worlds.  You have a URL that might return a text file,
>>>> might return a Postcript file, and in the future might return
>>>> something else.  How is that useful to anyone?
>>>> ...
>>> It would be useful for anyone who wants to produce "the" canonical
>>> URI for a given RFC -- this is what started the whole discussion.
>> Joe wants the canonical URL to use the http: scheme and to end with
>> ".txt", even if the type of document is Postscript. John was arguing
>> that such a canonical URL would be terrible. I agree with John: if we
>> can choose our canonical URLs, making them look like they are text
>> *even when they return another type* shows less engineering skill than
>> one would expect.
> Yes, indeed.
> Again: from <http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/URI>:
> "...What to leave out
> Everything! After the creation date, putting any information in the name
> is asking for trouble one way or another.
>     * Authors name- authorship can change with new versions. People quit
> organizations and hand things on.
>     * Subject. This is tricky. It always looks good at the time but
> changes surprisingly fast. I discuss this more below.
>     * Status- directories like "old" and "draft" and so on, not to
> mention "latest" and "cool" appear all over file systems. Documents
> change status - or there would be no point in producing drafts. The
> latest version of a document needs a persistent identifier whatever its
> status is. Keep the status out of the name.
>     * Access. At W3C we divide the site into "Team access", "Member
> access" and "Public access". It sounds good, but of course documents
> start off as team ideas, are discussed with members, and then go public.
> A shame indeed if every time some document is opened to wider discussion
> all the old links to it fail! We are switching to a simple date code now.
>     * File name extension. This is a very common one. "cgi", even
> ".html" is something which will change. You may not be using HTML for
> that page in 20 years time, but you might want today's links to it to
> still be valid. The canonical way of making links to the W3C site
> doesn't use the extension.(how?)

"HTTP" is just as likely to be invalid; why is it OK to pin down the
protocol, and not the file type?

Note that W3C's concern is what happens when the file *changes*. For
authoritative RFCs, this should not happen anyway.


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