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Comments from Frankston, Reed, and Friends

Saturday, March 23, 2002

DanB at 12:47 AM [url]:

DNS and trademarks discussion

I sent some comments to a discussion related to Bob Frankston's complaint about the DNS being messed up with trademark issues and losing its function of providing stable identifiers. Some readers found it helpful, so I'm reproducing it here, slightly edited based on comments I received.

On the Internet (and elsewhere), there are several layers we need: (1) physical naming (e.g., IP numbers), (2) permanent handles to a varying physical address with aliasing (DNS as we have it now with non-meaningful names using the current DNS technology), (3) optional human readable handles perhaps with meaning in various languages that translate into permanent handles with only one target for each such readable handles (e.g., favorites, something else built on DNS-like technology, RealNames, "I feel lucky" Google, something new to be invented, etc.), and (4) human readable directories with good searching that result in perhaps more than one target for each readable query to find "what I want" from what I type (Google-like, RealNames, who knows what else). With #3 or #4 you may want to have extra context to add to the handle, like trademark classes, or geographic or language restrictions.

Many people confuse the need for #3 with the need for #2. ***We need both, separately!*** (IP addresses are NOT #2. For example, a few months ago, www.bricklin.com moved from one IP address to another (my hosting company was moving me to a "better" machine). All links were stable and continued to work because the DNS gave an indirection.) Bob Frankston wants to make sure there is a #2 (it's critical to the integrity and future of the Web) despite the fact that we confuse its implementation with the ability to create a #3, which is also useful. We have enough users of the Web, and enough value to all sorts of parts of life, to be running into the theoretical problems that were brushed aside when simplistic decisions were made to use accidental properties of a namespace with identifiers longer than 8 characters. In the old days, having abbreviations was the key -- www.aa.com for American Airlines (or is it Alcoholics Annonymous?). The trademark thing is an unfortunate side effect of using an existing mechanism for an unintended purpose and not making a new simple mechanism to implement it. People thought Yahoo and Favorites were sufficient, I guess, early on.

People complain about Bob's purposely unmeaningful #2 identifiers, but already an awful lot of URLs that you get in emails are not human friendly -- they usually encode lots of specific info, like a shipping tracking number, etc. Like barely readable email addresses (dboy209@aol.com) we use other mechanisms to add meaning (<Dan Bricklin>dboy209@aol.com) to a reader without burdening the system with that checking that meaning.

Also, directories are not something easy to define, nor with a single "right" way. That's why you can copyright a particular method of compilation and categorization of public addresses. That type of directory (for finding what you want) is different than a computer directory (same word, different meaning) which often means a list of entries in a table that have a handle pointing to physical (or logical) locations. (I'm assuming we know what the word "handle" is.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

DanB at 11:03 AM [url]:

The rest of the Treo review

I've posted Parts 2 and 3 of my Handspring Treo 180 review. Part 2 is about using it as a phone and for Internet access. Part 3 discusses some other reviews of the Treo, and has a section with my comments about why I decided to buy a Treo 180, and why Handspring may be different than the other cell phone companies. Here's an excerpt from that part:

I think the Treo is important because it is not a "device" in the sense usually used by consumer electronics. It is more a "platform" in the sense that a personal computer is a platform. Handspring understands that at the highest levels, and I think that is what will make them and their products different than normal phone manufacturers and their products... [I then quote Bob Frankston's "Lessons from the GigaSet" that appeared here in SATN.org.] ...After using traditional cell phones and then the Treo, I was reminded of the dedicated word processors of the late 1970's and early 1980's (like those from Wang) and the reason we all switched to the more flexible personal computers. Being able to move your data and programs from generation to generation of hardware, and choose your software to improve or add capabilities to existing hardware, is what makes a product a platform and something that people like and trust.

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