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W3C, IETF Stick with 'Web Glue' Standards

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) have created a new standard and specification to improve the efficiency with which users leverage resources on the Web.

The standards address Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI) and Internationalized Resource Identifiers (IRI) , which take users to such resources as documents and Web sites from all over the world, with a few clicks. The W3C describes URIs as the "glue that holds the Web together."

As a replacement to the URI specification released in 1998, RFC 3986, STD 66 Uniform Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax is an IETF standard that describes the design, syntax and resolution of URIs. It also addresses security considerations and determines if two URIs are equivalent.

The standard features such changes as the notion that the host component of a URI will now support domain names from all over the Web. Other technical changes include a rule for absolute URIs with optional fragments, and a refreshed "Normalization and Comparison" section.

Its authors include W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee, who earlier created the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) for Web-based communication; Roy Fielding of Day Software; and Larry Masinter of Adobe Systems.

Though still a proposed standard -- and therefore a spec -- by the IETF, the RFC 3987 Internationalized Resource Identifiers (IRIs) allow users to identify Web resources in their own language. It was developed in part by the W3C Internationalization Working Group and was written by W3C member Martin Durst and Michel Suignard, of Microsoft.

While the natural scripts of the world's languages use characters other than A-Z, the new IRI standard expands characters from a subset of US-ASCII to the Universal Character Set (Unicode/ISO 10646). This will allow content developers and users to identify resources in their own languages.

The W3C said it anticipates a seamless transition from URI to IRI because every URI is already and IRI, meaning "URI users do not need to do anything differently in order to find what they need on the Web."

Moreover, the W3C said many of its specifications, including XML , RDF , XHTML and SVG , will benefit from the IRI spec because it supports international characters.

The URI and IRI update is the latest in a line of collaboration between the W3C and IETF. While the W3C is driving many of the most important standards on the Web -- most recently new standards for Web services -- URIs predate the group.

This fact, couple with the notion that the IETF uses URIs in many of its endeavors, is why the IETF has taken the lead on shepherding the new standards.