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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

And the data I own on your web service actually includes . . .

posted: Aug 30, 2006 1:07:10 AM

The URL.

While I appreciate that you, oh impressively geeky web 2.0 startup, want me to know that I "own my own data" on your web service, I don't feel like it's really mine unless I can own the URL as well.

I appreciate that you are thinking of me, and offering me at least some opportunity to export and import data from your web service. But let me use my own domain name. This way, you won't be able to take my URL away from me when I want to stop using your service, and I won't feel locked in.

My stuff online means a lot less to me without the context we create for it on the World Wide Web. And, on the World Wide Web, that context can exist because my URL can be used in hypertext references to my stuff.

I can only really call something mine on the web when I own its URL (which, generally means owning a domain name and having at least very basic control over web server paths).

Historical note: from the point of view of the iCite net project, one of the goals was to support a network without this kind of dependency on URLs. So, URLs were overlaid with unique identifiers called CIDs—which enabled stuff (content) to be identified portably across URLs (both at the domain and the path levels).

Part of the reason for CIDs was that URLs, in particular, being directly dependent on the function of domain name system, aren't free to identify stuff (content) that isn't tied to a domain. But, anyway, I realize that asking web service owners to let me use my own domain name with their services could require dealing with some relatively complex DNS issues.

So, you: you have a web service, and you want me to own my stuff that I post on your service. Please think about how to let me use my own domain name as the domain name part of all of the URLs your service creates for my stuff. Otherwise, I probably will stay away.

(Hey, other successful services have done this: Blogger immediately comes to mind . . .)


This was originally going to be, at least partially, a shout out to PeopleAggregator (yo Marc!). They are trying to take a high road, beyond the typical web 1.0 / 2.0 "lock-in" model. If you want PeopleAggregator on your own URL, you can run a version of it yourself. That's a way to start . . .


P.S. I do have another, new, blog about web design, information architecture, user experience, etc., in the works and launching soon. I'll announce it on this here blog when it goes live. Though, no worries: I'll keep posting strange posts like this one on this here blog :-)

(I am crazy busy with work, though I squeezed a nice camping trip to Lopez Island in this last weekend, and will be at Bumbershoot at least some of this next weekend. :-)

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