Tuesday, May 17, 2005

i-names: a convention searching for a use.

I've never understood the benefit of i-names as promulgated by Identity Commons and what's known as the "XRI community."

"dizzyd" has now posted some of the same concerns I have about this - for lack of a better term - intellectual exercise. In particular, he cites two major drawbacks:

1) there aren't any obvious tools available to the average user which would allow them "use" my i-name to contact me.
2) by default i-names are global, so there can only be one "=dizzyd" for the whole Internet. From an identifier standpoint, i-names are regressing us back to the days of "bob394" and "alice2zz".

Drummond Reed takes on the challenge of explaining these issues in his latest blog entry.

He concedes that there are few uses for i-names outside of the deeply incestuous identity industry right now, but points to plans for future efforts including Single Signon and data sharing. Neither appear to offer a compelling reason for Joe Sixpack to get an i-name.

As to the unique naming problem - and I do hate when registering for a service to be told that my choice of username is "already in use" - he notes that i-names are "at least as partionable as URIs, DNS names, and IP addresses." That is, every holder of an i-name can delegate extensions. He gives examples:


So he's saying that if someone else has already enabled "kearns" as an i-name all I need to do is to convince them to grant me "kearns.dave" and I'm home free. But suppose the holder of "kearns" doesn't want to do that? And what of my son Dave Kearns and my nephew Dave Kearns? I do not want to be the 5th derivative of "kearns"! Nor do I wish to be beholden to some jocko who happened to register the name and wishes to charge me a fortune to be part of the "clan kearns". None of this, by the way, makes it any easier for someone wishing to contact me to decide which of the "kearns.*" or "kearns.dave.*" entries I might be. Only if, somehow, I give my i-name directly to you can you then use it to contact me.

I simply don't see the point. XRIs (like the URIs and URLs they replace) at least have some logical reason for being - an XML universal locator. But when it comes to identifying and locating people, there's still nothing more accurate or efficient than x.500 naming.

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