[E-Lang] Other E News: Name Space Speculation

Mark S. Miller markm@caplet.com
Fri, 19 Jan 2001 19:25:31 -0800

                              Fomenting Revolution

Many of us on this list share the sense that we are brewing an immanent 
revolution in distributed secure computing via capabilities.  In this kind 
of revolution, there would be a growing number of independent efforts doing 
separate but related things.  to create a sense that something important is 
happening, it helps if it's apparent that these efforts are related.

These days, how an effort labels itself (no matter whether it's a company, 
an individual, or a non-profit) depends on what domain name it can get.  To 
encourage these efforts to be perceived in aggregate as a revolution, it 
would be great if they could have related names, if their proprietors so 
choose.  Previous name rush fads on the web show common prefix to be a good 

Towards this end, I've been quitely acquiring capability-relevant domain 
names, most of which begin with "cap".  These can be found at 
http://www.caplet.com/domains.html .  If you want one of these as the domain 
for your own capability-oriented activities, let me know. We'll see what we 
can work out.

There are two capability oriented efforts that I expect will use names from 
this set, but I'll refrain from saying anything further until they make 
their own announcement.

As another way to make visible a growing set of related activities, I've 
also started the Capability Security WebRing 
http://nav.webring.yahoo.com/hub?ring=capabilitysecuri&id=8&hub , using the 
yahoo WebRing hosting site, which is great for the price ;).  Be sure to 
turn Javascript on in your browser before checking it out.

                      The Trademark System of First Resort

I've realized that the domain name system, specifically the *.com space, 
should be treated as the trademark system of first resort, while the legal 
trademark system remains the system of last resort.  What do I mean by 
"first resort"?  When I grab, for example, CapML.com, this neither gives me 
CapML as a trademark, nor does it verify for me that no one already has 
this trademark.  However, if this was a name anyone cared about, they would 
have already grabbed it.  And after I grab it, anyone thinking of using CapML
for something will first "whois capml.com", since it's so easy.  Finding it 
occupied, they could still trademark it, but they'd likely keep searching 
for a different name.

As programmers, we need a zillion names for things, and even with the drop 
in price of domain names, it would be crazy to grab a domain name for every 
name you invent in constructing a system.  However, for those parts of a 
system, such as a protocol, where it needs to be promoted and talked about 
separately, I think it will be increasingly problematic to use a name that 
conflicts with someone else's trademark or .com.  So I grabbed many of the 
domain names you see on the above page primarily to reserve that part of the 
name space for a use related to E.  Specifically:

Although I love the whole "E Pluribus Unum" thing, we screwed up.  We knew 
we couldn't get e.com (single letters aren't granted (but what about 
x.com?)), but we didn't think to grab pluribus.com or unum.com when we had 
the chance.  "Unum" names a fairly internal concept, so I won't sweat that 
one, but we've been using "Pluribus" to name protocols.  I think proposed 
protocols are where this problem will become especially bad.  (We'll 
probably use Pluribus later to name something without this problem.)  So we 
now have the following names for levels of protocols, from bottom to top:

VatTP -- the inter-Vat Transport Protocol.  Was data-pluribus.
CapTP -- the Capability Transport Protocol.  Was object-pluribus
ERTP -- the Electronic Rights Transport Protocol.  No change.
CapContract -- the Capability-based 3rd party smart Contract hosting protocol.

For these protocols, I've grabbed the *.net as well.  The Java package name 
(also visible in E) for all these will be net.*.

At the CapTP layer in a sense, we also have CapCert for the capability 
oriented off line active invocation certificates, which I've been meaning to 
get back to.

Of course, there's a relationship between these two levels.  If it's 
sufficiently separate in its promotion to warrant a separate name, then, 
like CapIDL and CapCert, it would be good for it to be spun out into a 
separate effort run by different people.  Organizing names this way paves 
the way for this kind of fissioning.  Of course, it only solves the least 
hard of all the problems with such a process ;)