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Re: Upgrading the news URL

Dan Fabulich wrote:
> Usenet ALREADY meets most of the requirements laid down in the Xanadu
> FAQ:  bdghjlnoq are already part of the system; ki could be easily
> implemented with programs like PGP which use public key encryption
> algorithms.  ap will be implemented, slowly, across the Internet, as
> it becomes harder and harder to sniff and spoof.  c is probably on the
> way as well, though there are many who would wish otherwise.

Of course, a "user" need not be identifiable as a particular individual,
merely as a distinct identity for the purposes of authorship.  I have
always supported the availability of pseudonimity.  It is also quite
possible to support random numeric pseudonyms (as at anon.penet.fi) or
indeed an "anonymous" identity which can be used by anyone, although
anonymous authors would presumably not be able to collect royalties.

> That leaves ef, the important missing features.

Actually, MIME already supports requirement e and is already implemented
in many news clients.

> But to our advantage, the most popular newsreaders ALREADY support
> URL linking within Usenet posts.  Some, like Netscape and IE, can
> view these posts as full HTML documents.  So with minimal effort
> we could upgrade the "news:"; URL to allow the user to specify
> a particular byte range in the body of a unique message-id:
> news:<message-id>@host[/<startbyte>[-<endbyte>]]  So a URL to
> reference the first paragraph in the body of the Xanadu FAQ would be:
> news:5ferud$241vg@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx/000-512

I would prefer to use the extension proposed in my Internet-Draft
"Fine-Grained Transclusion in the Hypertext Markup Language"
because the principle applies in exactly the same way to all 
documents regardless of the transmission protocol (e.g. HTTP or NNTP).

> Simply by making this miniscule change to the "news:"; URL, Usenet could
> instantly become an embryotic hypertext system.  It would even conserve
> bandwidth, as people would link to the previous posted sections in a
> debate, rather than reposting them at length.  Articles would be
> backlinked and referenced to any MIME media type via URLs and the
> References: header field, which could link to any other article on
> Usenet.  We could forget the difficult task of implementing hyperg
> servers across the Internet and get the whole thing done quickly, easily
> and efficiently.
> Thoughts on this?

I had a similar idea quite some time ago (a few years, I believe) but the
major difficulty is that a Xanadu system is designed to retain all documents
indefinitely, and this is currently infeasible with Usenet because of the
sheer volume of articles.  Of course, compressing quotes from other messages
into transclusions would assist enormously but the problem of the enormous
quantity of spam (both horizontal and vertical), regularly repeated postings
and often irrelevant or improperly posted binaries seems to me to make it
very difficult for anyone to afford the quantity of online storage required
for such an undertaking.

However, my partner (Katherine Phelps) did recently propose moving to a
version of Usenet which did not have unmoderated newsgroups - only
moderated and auto-moderated groups.  The latter would simply have a
moderation script which functions like a mailing list manager, refusing
postings by anyone not on a subscription list.  This could help a lot.

Share and enjoy,
		*** Xanni ***
mailto:xanni@xxxxxxxxxx                         Andrew Pam
http://www.xanadu.net/xanadu/                   Technical VP, Xanadu
http://www.glasswings.com.au/                   Technical Editor, Glass Wings
http://www.sericyb.com.au/sc/                   Manager, Serious Cybernetics
P.O. Box 26, East Melbourne VIC 8002 Australia  Phone +61 3 96511511