It's UBE and RDF in Web Talk

It's UBE and RDF in Web Talk

By John Makulowich
Contributing Writer

Anyone populating the World Wide Web with information or sending blanket e-mail solicitations should learn two acronyms that are certain to gain wider currency.

The first, UBE, stands for unsolicited bulk e-mail and is the subject of a report, "Unsolicited Bulk Email: Mechanisms for Control," just released by the Internet Mail Consortium, an international organization based in Santa Cruz, Calif.

The second, RDF, means resource description framework, a so-called metadata architecture through which users and developers can categorize, organize and search Web-based information. Simply stated, development and subsequent adoption of RDF as a standard should make it easier for you and me to find what we're looking for on the Web as well as help others find what we publish on our home pages.

The current version is the first public working draft released this month by the World Wide Web Consortium in Cambridge, Mass., known as W3C. When 'recommended' by the W3C, it will become a standard.

The UBE report is actually the second released by the Internet Mail Consortium, which seeks to assist those working to reduce or eliminate UBE, more commonly referred to by the name "spam."

The first report, "Unsolicited Bulk Email: Definitions and Problems," was published in early October and offers both definitions used in discussing UBE and descriptions of the ways that UBE can affect Internet e-mail users and e-mail providers.

The second report adds to the first by listing technical and legal solutions under discussion. It also shows how those solutions can impact Internet mail users. Among the areas covered are the two basic mechanisms for controlling UBE, that is, filtering and legal action. Filtering includes so-called heuristic filters, or learning and guessing, and cooperative filters, or collaboration between senders and recipients.

The reports are worth studying if only for how the different options are classified. Both could well serve as the basis for organizational policy positions on UBE.

Since the reports are drafts, the Internet Mail Consortium encourages readers to send in their comments. The address to use is reports@imc.org. They would especially like to see better, more understandable categories to improve the report's usefulness to the general public as well as more proposals on how to control UBE.

In the case of the acronym, RDF, the broad goal of the effort to establish a standard is to define a way of describing resources that makes no assumptions about a specific application domain. Thus, RDF would allow applications that exchange information on the Web to interoperate and it would stress the automated processing of Web resources.

Examples of the way RDF metadata, or data about Web resources, can be used include resource discovery (for better search engines), cataloging (for describing Web page content); intelligent software agents (to ease knowledge sharing); content rating; and intellectual property rights (for describing IP rights of specific Web pages). Further, as stated in the draft, "RDF with digital signatures will be key to building the "Web of Trust" for electronic commerce, collaboration, and other applications."

The relevant URLs are: IMC (http://www.imc.org/), UBE Report (http://www.imc.org/ube-sol.html), W3C (http://www.w3c.org/) and the RDF draft (http://www.w3.org/Metadata/RDF/).

John Makulowich writes, talks and trains on the Internet. You can reach him at john@journalist.com; his home page is http://www.cais.com/makulow/.



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