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Vikas Kamat
 Vikas Kamat is a programmer- entrepreneur living in Birmingham AL. This blog is a complex mix of Indian culture, life in southern USA, computer sciences, and sports. Opinions are his own.
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The Problem with OpenURLs Durable Link to this BLOG
The Problem with OpenURLs

The OpenURL standard was established to enable http-linking, even when accurate URL was unavailable.

It is a pretty cool initiative, allowing libraries, and writers to place links to other people's work just based on the meta-data. I have no doubt that this is the way to go even for non-bibliographic linking. IMO one day all the search engines will provide efficient ways to deconstruct OpenURLs to take the user to the most precise content item. However, the purpose of this blog entry is to pin-point some of the holes in its specification.

  • No author predicate: This omission is unpardonable. When I first read the specification in year 2000 I wrote to Prof. Herbert Van de Sompel, but apparently the spec. was frozen by then. In the last three years nothing has been done. The standard tries to normalize the author names by defining five tags aulast,aufirst,auinit,auinit1, and auinitm which are quite useless from software implementation point of view. They are certainly limiting  from a researcher's point of usability. Consider these:
    • While referencing a fellow researcher's work the burden of deciphering which is the first name, which is the last name, did the researcher change the name after her marriage/divorce is just too painful for the author.
    • What about the all those people who have only one name?! How insensitive is that?

  • No authentication predicates: I agree with the standard that GET is easier to implement that POST, but they completely forgot to add authentication predicates! Instead they advocate Cookie-pushing. Most OpenURL implementers have used their own authentication (like token,password,ipnumber) predicates, thus defeating the very purpose of standardization.

  • Nightmare of the atitle predicate: I want to meet the programmer who has implemented this predicate. It is extremely difficult when it is easy, and quite impossible in most mathematical and scientific content. I mean, how will you URL-encode equations?
  • No affiliation predicates: "I want Thomas Smith of Harward, not Thomas Smith of Stanford." -- can't do that.

So, here's wishing for a review, and wide-spread deployment of the standard.

(Comments Disabled for Now. Sorry!)First Written: Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Last Modified: 2/25/2003
Tags: library

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