Identity, Reference, and the Web


and Philosophy

of the Web

Identity, Reference, and the Web


WWW2006 Workshop

Edinburgh, Scotland May 23rd


A summary of the event has been written by Harry Halpin to give a brief overview of the events of the workshop and as a written record for future efforts in this area.


Note the location of the workshop is at NESC (National E-Science Center). Here is a map on how to get to EICC to NESC.

TimeAuthorTitle of Paper[HTML][PDF][SLIDES][PODCAST]
11:30-12:00 Harry Halpin (Introduction) Identity, Reference, and Meaning on the Web [PDF][HTML] [MP3]
12:00-12:30Dan ConnollyA Pragmatic Theory of Reference for the Web[PDF][HTML] [MP3]
12:30-1:00A. Gangemi and V. PresuttiThe bourne identity of a web resource[PDF] [PDF] [MP3]
2:00-2:30Allen GinsbergThe Big Schema of Things[PDF] [PDF]
2:30-3:00David BoothURIs and the Myth of Identity[PDF][HTML]
3:30-4:00Coffee Break
4:00-4:30B. Parsia and P.F. Patel-SchneiderMeaning and the Semantic Web[PDF] [HTML] [MP3]
4:30-5:00Pat Hayes In Defense of Ambiguityn/a[PDF] [MP3]
5:00-5:30Steve Pepper The Case for Published Subjects[PDF][PPT]
5:30-5:45H. Choi, S. Kruk. S. Grzonkowski., K. Stankleicz, B. Davis, and J. BreslinTrust Models for Community-Aware Identity Management[PDF][PPT] [MP3]
5:45-6:00John BlackCreating a Common Ground for URI Meaning Using Socially Constructed Web Sites[PDF][PPT] [MP3]
6:00-6:30Henry Thompson (Chairing) Discussion: Where Next?[HTML] [MP3]

Hard copies of the workshop proceedings will be provided to attendees of the workshop, and workshop proceedings will be included in the DVD for WWW2006.

Some of the talks are available for podcasting. However, only the first talks in the morning do not suffer from some distortion caused by the audio equipment, and the recordings are not of high quality but are in genearl listenable. You can download the MP3s from the schedule table (last column) or by subscribing to the RSS Feed below.

Semantic Wiki

A Semantic MediaWiki page for the workshop is available, encoding the data of the workshop in an human-readable and editable manner that produces RDF.


A photo archive of the event.

Goal and Theme:

Our immediate goal for this workshop is to explore the nature of identification and reference on the Web, building on current work in Web architecture, the Semantic Web, and informal community-based tagging (folksonomy), as well as current practice in XML and theory in philosophy and linguistics. Underlying many of these discussions are critical issues of how one creates and construes meaning on the Web. This workshop should bring together researchers and practitioners from a variety of backgrounds in order to discuss and clarify these issues.

The greater goal of the workshop is to examine the architecture and philosophical basis of the Web by carefully inspecting how fundamental aspects of the Web can be clearly recognized and possibly improved.

URIs are the primary mechanism for reference and identity on the Web. To be useful, a URI must provide access to information which is sufficient to enable someone or something to uniquely identify a particular thing and the thing identified might vary between contexts. There is no doubt that as mechanisms for identifying web pages the URI has been wildly successful. Currently, URIs can also be used to identify namespaces, ontologies, and almost anything. However, important questions about the interpretation,use, and meaning of URIs have been left unanswered, questions that have important ramifications for everything from search engines to philosophy. As soon as matters get complicated, there is little or no consensus on issues of identification and reference on the Web. Put simply, given a URI, how should the nature of its intended referent be known in an interoperable and preferably automatic manner?

This is not an easy question to answer: for example, the Semantic Web and folksonomies present two distinctly differing viewpoints. On the Semantic Web a URI nominally identifies a single resource, while folksonomies rely on a more informal group consensus. Notions of identity will have even larger ramifications when privacy and trust become central issues for the Web. The management of this issue impacts practical issues of data integration on the Web and versioning and evolution for languages that use URIs, such as XML.

This workshop at WWW 2006 will offer an open forum to constructively discuss and make progress on these issues.
Picture of 
Binary Waves emerging from Black Holes - NASA

Paper Submission:

Paper submission is closed.

Topics Of Interest, but not limited to:
  • The nature of URIs and resources on the Web
  • Identification, perspectives and contexts
  • Philosophical analysis of issues reference, meaning, and identity on the Web
  • Linguistic theories of reference, meaning, and identity on the Web
  • Model-theories for identity and reference on the Web
  • Tagging and the Web 2.0 for identification and meaning
  • Concrete Standards for identification and meaning
    See Links for more information
    • 'tdb' URN and 'taguri' URI Scheme
    • Subject Indicators for Topic Maps
    • WPN RDDLs
    • URIQA
    • HTTP Status Codes
    • MIME Types
    • URNs and URLs
  • Impact of URIs and identification on Web Services and the Semantic Web
  • URI ownership and identification
  • How the Web Revolution effects traditional concepts of identify, meaning, and reference
  • URI usage for language versioning and identification
  • Identity and trust on the Web

Submission Instructions:

  • Submission Due Date: February 17th 2006
  • Notification of Acceptance: March 31st 2006
  • Workshop Date:May 23rd 2006
Submissions must conform to the ACM formatting guidelines for WWW2006 and must not exceed 10 pages, including all text, references, appendices, and figures. Submissions must be in Portable Document Format (PDF).

Papers are to be submitted to the workshop via e-mail by e-mailing Harry's E-mail Address

Workshop Co-Chairs

Programme Committee


Here are some examples of questions. For a quiz by Tim Berners-Lee, see here
  • How does a URI authoritatively establish its meaning?
  • Is the "meaning" of a URI established by the owner of the URI, the model-theoretic definition of the URI in terms of the Semantic Web, it's "social meaning," or the document (information resource) it returns?
  • If a mixture of these, how do we formalize the informal aspects so that machines can use them?
  • What does the open-world and trust assumptions mean for formal model theories?
  • What responsibilities does the owner of a URI have to establish the identity of the URI and does this include a machine-readable format?
  • What things can and cannot "have identity" on the Web? Is a genera of such things useful, or even possible?
  • What sort of things can a URI dereference? Does dereference mean "returning something concrete" or is it an abstract relationship with no necessary grounding?
  • Is there a resource for "Moby Dick?" If so, does it have a URI(s)? If not, what is the preferred method of creating one?
  • How can I mint a URI that refers uniquely to myself, and maintain control of it?
  • Are some URIs ambiguous? Is this common?
  • How can one make sure one's URI interoperates well with other URIs that identify the same thing? Can or should this process be automated for use with machines?
  • What are the concrete advantages of using centralized or decentralized identification systems?
  • Is there any reason to use a URN instead of a URL?
  • What sort of document or status code should a XML namespace or Semantic Web URI return?
  • What separates the Web from other forms of communication, and does this impact how traditional problems in linguistics and philosophy? For example, a URI implies access to a resource, which is not the case in linguistics.
  • What are the distinctions between representation on the Web and the use of the word "representation" in AI and philosophy? How are they the same, and how do they differ?
  • Has the Web changed our understanding of information? Is information theory and model theory strong enough foundations for the Web, and how should they be employed?
  • How are new technologies using URIs (Web Services, Semantic Web) in ways that are expanding, or breaking them? How can we layer these new technologies successfully on top of each other?
  • Does tagging present a more robust, albeit fuzzier, way to identify than URIs? Are there other alternative means of identification?
  • What advantages and disadvantages come into play with only looking at the content of documents on the Web, and ignoring URIs?
  • Does any of this matter, and what practical steps forward need to be taken? Or otherwise how can we close the debate, and make it clear that it does not matter?
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