[whatwg] Link rot is not dangerous

Dan Brickley danbri at danbri.org
Fri May 15 09:28:53 PDT 2009

On 15/5/09 18:20, Manu Sporny wrote:
> Kristof Zelechovski wrote:
>> Therefore, link rot is a bigger problem for CURIE
>> prefixes than for links.
> There have been a number of people now that have gone to great lengths
> to outline how awful link rot is for CURIEs and the semantic web in
> general. This is a flawed conclusion, based on the assumption that there
> must be a single vocabulary document in existence, for all time, at one
> location. This has also lead to a false requirement that all
> vocabularies should be centralized.
> Here's the fear:
> If a vocabulary document disappears for any reason, then the meaning of
> the vocabulary is lost and all triples depending on the lost vocabulary
> become useless.
> That fear ignores the fact that we have a highly available document
> store available to us (the Web). Not only that, but these vocabularies
> will be cached (at Google, at Yahoo, at The Wayback Machine, etc.).
> IF a vocabulary document disappears, which is highly unlikely for
> popular vocabularies - imagine FOAF disappearing overnight, then there
> are alternative mechanisms to extract meaning from the triples that will
> be left on the web.
> Here are just two of the possible solutions to the problem outlined:
> - The vocabulary is restored at another URL using a cached copy of the
> vocabulary. The site owner of the original vocabulary either re-uses the
> vocabulary, or re-directs the vocabulary page to another domain
> (somebody that will ensure the vocabulary continues to be provided -
> somebody like the W3C).
> - RDFa parsers can be given an override list of legacy vocabularies that
> will be loaded from disk (from a cached copy). If a cached copy of the
> vocabulary cannot be found, it can be re-created from scratch if necessary.
> The argument that link rot would cause massive damage to the semantic
> web is just not true. Even if there is minor damage caused, it is fairly
> easy to recover from it, as outlined above.

A few other points:

1. It's for the community of vocabulary-creators to help each other out 
w.r.t. hosting/publishing these: I just nudged a friend to put another 5 
years on the DNS rental for a popular namespace. I think we should put a 
bit more structure around these kinds of habit, so that popular 
namespaces won't drop off the Web through accident.

2. digitally signing the schemas will become part of the story, I'm 
sure. While it's a bit fiddly, there are advantages to having other 
mechanisms beyond URI de-referencing for knowing where a schema came from

3. Parties worried about external dependencies when using namespaces can 
always indirect through their own namespace, whose schema document can 
declare subclass/subproperty relations to other URIs



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