Getting a handle on URNs

It is extraordinary how in just over a decade Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) have entered everyday life to such an extent that they are now found practically everywhere - from the side of buses to the back of cornflake packets. But this universality tends to mask the fact that they suffer from a serious defect.

Everyone has encountered the problem, which manifests itself as the dreaded "404 page not found" message. The trouble is that changes in site design, file directories and domain names can easily make a URL obsolete, with no means of automatically redirecting to the new Internet location (where it exists). What is needed is a standard way of permanently naming a digital resource similar to that provided by the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for analogue books.

The solution is to move from URLs to URNs: Uniform Resource Names. The important thing about URNs is that they do not point directly to an Internet resource, but are rather a placeholder for the location and other metadata. This means that the URN does not need to change if the URL does: it is enough to update the redirection.

URNs sound great in theory. Unfortunately, progress towards realising them has been slow. One attempt to address what is sometimes called linkrot is the use of PURLs: Persistent URLs. This employs redirection to solve the problem of changes in directory structure, but is basically an adaptation of the URL. More thoroughgoing in its attempt to create full URNs is the Handle system.

This was devised by Robert Kahn, co-inventor of the TCP/IP protocols, and currently President of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI). The CNRI site has plenty of information on handles, including a FAQ, articles, papers, full documentation and three related RFCs (3650, 3651, 3652). CNRI also runs a free public handle service for those who wish to try out the system before installing the free server software locally. There is also client software that lets Windows browsers resolve handles directly, and some examples of what handles look like in practice.

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Free Software Foundation Weighs Response to SCO Subpoena

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) said today that The SCO Group subpoenaed the group's records late last year seeking detailed information about the GNU Public License (GPL) used in the distribution of the GNU/Linux operating system.

"This is a broad subpoena that effectively asks for every single document about the GPL and enforcement of the GPL since 1999," Bradley Kuhn said in the FSF's statement. "They also demand every document and email that we have exchanged with Linus Torvalds, IBM, and other players in the community. In many cases, they are asking for information that is confidential communication between us and our lawyers, or between us and our contributors." Continue reading

Microsoft Launch TryIIS Campaign

Microsoft has started a new campaign to attract customers to Windows Server 2003 called TryIIS. This campaign is supported by a web site, which was launched last Monday with marketing, evaluations and case studies.

Windows Server 2003 was launched just over a year ago and has seen some strong growth over that time. In the May Netcraft Web Server Survey 2.1M hostnames were identified on Windows Server 2003, with a gain of 390K hostnames since April 2004. Around 50% of these are new sites, while just under 100,000 have migrated from Linux.

Comparing Windows Server 2003 of Windows 2000 shows them to have quite similar adoption rates, as shown in the graph below:


The Planet Adds Data Center To Manage Rapid Growth

In a sign of continued expansion for the dedicated server market, The Planet has leased additional data center space and is hiring staff. The Planet has signed a 10-year lease for a 21,000 square foot data center in Dallas, where it already operates a 60,000 square foot facility.

But the new center, which will be able to hold 12,000 servers, isn't large enough to solve The Planet's long-term needs. At the company's current growth rate, the new site will likely be filled within nine months, according to chief operating officer Lance Crosby.

"We continue to scour Dallas and other major market locations for prime data center space," said Crosby. "This facility is about half the space of our primary location, so it's a short-term solution, but we anticipate closing on another new deal in about 90 days."

The Planet has added more than 165,000 hostnames in 2004, growing from 123K to 289K. The number of active sites hosted by The Planet has quadrupled in the past eight months:

The Planet growth, in active sites

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RIAA Site Offline Again on MyDoom.F Trigger Date

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) web site is once again experiencing significant downtime. The timing of outages yesterday and today begs the question of whether the site continues to suffer the effects of the MyDoom.F virus, which programs machines to launch distributed denial of service attacks on between the 17th and 22nd of each month.

The RIAA site was offline from March 17-24 due to the effects of MyDoom.F, which at its height was estimated to have infected as many as 45,000 machines, according to antivirus vendors.

RIAA web site peformance

A dynamically updating graph of the sites targeted for DDoS by various MyDoom variants is available here.

Changes at MT, Blogger Highlight Blog Hosting Strategies

Last week saw a gravity shift in sentiment towards two blogging pioneers, Movable Type and Blogger, which each unveiled major news. At the heart of their divergent fortunes are the two companies' decisions about hosting and its role in blog-related business models.

Google's relaunch of Blogger was hailed as a welcome update of what was once the biggest blogging service. But Six Apart's launch of Movable Type 3.0 turned into a public relations fiasco, as a new licensing structure quickly eroded the goodwill - and perhaps the user base - for the popular publishing tool.

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