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In working on something else today I realized that I had neglected to pass on this announcement from NISO last month about the important forward momentum of the INFO Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) scheme, which gives us an important new way to reference existing identifiers and classification schemes in web applications.






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After meticulous reviews lasting more than two years, the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) has approved the proposed INFO Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) scheme. As a consequence, the Internet Draft specifying the INFO URO scheme has moved to the Queue of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) where it awaits formal publication as an RFC (Request for Comments).* INFO URI solves problems with identifying information assets, including documents and terms from classification schemes. The scheme is a consistent and reliable way to represent and reference such standard identifiers as Library of Congress Control Numbers on the Web so that these identifiers can be "read" and understood by Web applications.


Average web users will not see the scheme in action on a computer screen - for example, info:lccn/2002022641 - because this is an under-the-hood way of communicating the identity of an information asset to a web application.


INFO URI was developed by a coalition under the auspices of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO). NISO members Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) worked in partnership with the Nature Publishing Group and British consulting firm Manifest Solutions to address an identification problem that was revealed during the NISO standardization of the OpenURL Framework for Context-Sensitive Services, released early 2005 as ANSI/NISO Z39.88-2004. A draft for the INFO URI scheme was first published Sept. 25th, 2003.


Tony Hammond of the Nature Publishing Group, stated, "We see INFO as an enabling technology for the library, publishing and media communities - a way to facilitate and speed the growth of the Web as a truly global information place beyond a basic document repository. The Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine, and the Astrophysics Data Center are among those organizations that have already registered public namespaces with the INFO Registry."


"INFO URI has the potential to add a missing piece of web-naming architecture," added Stuart Weibel, Senior Research Scientist at OCLC.


Herbert Van de Sompel, Digital Library Research & Prototyping at LANL's Research Library, explained, "Legacy identifiers are all around us and eventually need to be expressed as URIs in order to become usable in Web applications. In addition, there is a class of identifiers for which one does not necessarily want a resolution mechanism to be built into the identifying URI. INFO URI was proposed to provide a home for both and the INFO URI registry already shows that such a home was much needed."


Describing INFO URI's relevance to next generation Web development, MacKenzie Smith, Associate Director for Technology, MIT Libraries, noted, "The Semantic Web provides a way to incorporate important legacy content into useful Web applications, but first we need a way to refer to all that content whether it's already on the Web or not. INFO URI is a big step in that direction, bringing trusted identification systems into the Semantic Web and helping developers avoid unnecessary confusion and duplication of effort in finding connections between things. It's a building block; an acknowledgement that to achieve the vision of the Semantic Web we need to include identifier systems that don't fit the Web architecture out-of-the-box but that can still provide enormous value to users."


The INFO Registry, currently operated by OCLC on behalf of NISO, is available online at http://info-uri.info/ for receiving new registrations. This Registry contains information needed by Web applications to make use of INFO namespaces. Each Registry entry defines the namespace, the syntax, and normalization rules for the representing INFO identifiers as URIs, and gives full contact information for the namespace authority for that entry. Moreover, the INFO Registry has a Web interface for human use and allows for machine interaction by supporting RSS feeds and the Open Archives Protocol for Metadata Harvesting.


About NISO


NISO, a non-profit association accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), identifies, develops, maintains, and publishes technical standards to manage information in our changing and ever-more digital environment. NISO standards apply both traditional and new technologies to the full range of information-related needs, including retrieval, re-purposing, storage, metadata, and preservation. NISO Standards, information about NISO's activities and membership are featured on the NISO website http://www.niso.org.


* The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) codifies the decisions it comes to in documents called "Requests For Comments." These are almost universally called by their acronym "RFCs." Many RFCs are the standards on which the Internet is formed.