The PURL system evolved from OCLC’s participation in the Uniform Resource Name (URN) working group in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The multi-year URN effort resulted in an underutilized facet of Internet naming architecture embodied in two main IETF standards (RFCs 2141 and 2611). URNs were intended to help deal with the problem of resources whose location in the global file Internet file system changed by separating symbolic names from locations, but for a variety of reasons have not enjoyed wide adoption. The divisive and drawn out negotiations surrounding the evolution of this standard reflects the difficulty of the task from a technical point of view and fundamental disagreements about the functional characteristics of generalized naming systems. Long before the culmination of the URN efforts, OCLC Research introduced PURLs as an open toolset to make it easier to exploit the natural idiom of indirection built into Web infrastructure. PURLs facilitate the management of symbolic resource names by organizations otherwise motivated to promote persistence of resources and their names, and are in use in limited, but significant applications in the Internet realm. PURLs take advantage of existing, off the shelf, open source software to make it easier to manage resource names. The PURL system is itself open source, freely available to all. For all this, PURLs have not become ubiquitous, nor have the classic problems of 404: Document Not Found gone away. This talk will describe the PURL system and discuss its strengths, as well as factors that have mitigated against wider adoption. For further information: http://www.purl.org
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