About me

Welcome to my web page, which documents some of my work on web & related Internet standards, documents and their formats, and older work on AI and Lisp programming. See my my LinkedIn profile for additional details and my blog for essays on various topics.

Recent Projects

This section lists some unfinished projects that I've been working on (or at least thinking about) lately.

  • Apps and other software to support PWP (People With Parkinson's). It's a complex condition requiring management of medication and exercise to stay mobile. At a recent retreat I was encouraged by the progress that comes with focused exercise, and I'd like to build or adapt some apps to help manage.
  • Fixing up my web and social media presence. Initially I tried working with some web designers on fiverr.com to create a usable site that would work well on mobile, organized by topic. I've kept the use of bootstrap.js, but otherwise moved to using a bootstrap plugin for table-of-contents. I still have a lot of editing to do, and I want to link the blog and this site by relevant keywords. Comments & suggestions welcome: What do you think?
  • Helping restore Interlisp-D to usability on modern OSes. I'm thinking of this as a kind of "vintage software" project, to try to recapture the sense of fluidity in the development cycle that I've not encountered since. I'd like to coordinate with the Computer History Museum and/or the Internet Archive.
  • A paper on a theory of document formats with a focus on how formats evolve over time. It covers a lot of ground. Again, comments are welcome.
  • Long-term archiving of documents. If we are going to live in an all-digital world, we have to have a way of keeping documents for hundreds of years with little risk of accidental or malicious destruction or unintended distribution.
  • Along the way, I want to archive all my own stuff: papers, notes, memos, private documents, emails. Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe (LOCKSS) is my main guide: documents in DropBox, photos in iCloud, email in GMail; scan, save and then recycle all physical media.
  • Internationalization of URLs: there are multiple, overlapping, incomplete, and incompatible standards published by organizations that don't coordinate well. One idea that I'd like to develop is an idea for a service that could tell someone thinking of creating a non-ASCII URL how currently deployed systems would treat the URL, taking into account how they display, compare or their users would transcribe the URL.
  • Explaining the jokes of RFC 2324, HTCPCP (The “HyperText Coffee Pot Control Protocol”), and what exactly I was poking fun of, at the time.
  • Working on Open Data and Open Documents. Documents are a means for communicating information to people. Communicating information to software, not as helpful. Is it possible to extend document formats so they can carry data in a more useful form?

Web Standards

A good chunk of my career has been around Standards, especially for the Web—“arguing about how the web should work”.

URL, URI, IRI, URN

The key invention of the web: using URLs for hypertext. You'd think the standards for URLs would be simple, but this fundamental part of he web still has problems.

  • (2015) URL problem statement and directions
  • (2015) Guidelines and Registration Procedures for New URI Schemes.
  • (2011) masinter-dated-uri The "tdb" and "duri" URI schemes.
  • (2010) ietf-iri-3987bis Internationalized Resource Identifiers (IRIs), in IRI working group (abandoned)
  • RFC 6068 "The 'mailto' URI Scheme", M. Duerst, L. Masinter, J. Zawinski, 2010.
  • RFC 4395 "Guidelines and Registration Procedures for New URI Schemes", Tony Hansen, Ted Hardie, Larry Masinter, 2006.
  • RFC 3986 "Uniform Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax", Tim Berners-Lee, Roy Fielding, Larry Masinter, 2005.
  • RFC 3553 "An IETF URN Sub-namespace for Registered Protocol Parameters." Michael Mealling, Larry Masinter, Ted Hardie, Graham Klyne, 2003.
  • (until 1995) chair URI working group, defining standards for locating, naming, and describing resources on the Internet.
  • RFC 2972 "Context and Goals for Common Name Resolution", N. Popp, M. Mealling, L. Masinter, K. Sollins, 2000. Who owns a name? At the time, I was also on the technical advisory board of RealNames.
  • RFC 2732 "Format for Literal IPv6 Addresses in URL's", R. Hinden, B. Carpenter, L. Masinter. December 1999.
  • RFC 2718 "Guidelines for new URL Schemes". L. Masinter, H. Alvestrand, D. Zigmond, R. Petke. November 1999
  • (1999 talk) Problems URIs don't solve. Presentation at TWIST 99, The Workshop on Internet-scale Software Technologies, Internet Scale Naming.
  • RFC 2397 "The 'data' URL scheme." L. Masinter. August, 1998.
  • RFC 2396 "Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI): Generic Syntax." T. Berners-Lee, R. Fielding, L. Masinter, August 1998.
  • RFC 2368 "The mailto URL scheme." P. Hoffman, L. Masinter, J. Zawinski. July, 1998.
  • RFC 1738 "Uniform Resource Locators (URL)." T. Berners-Lee, L. Masinter & M. McCahill. 1994.
  • RFC 1737 "Functional Requirements for Uniform Resource Names." K. Sollins & L. Masinter. 1994.

Internationalization

HTTP

The primary way communication happens for the Web and many other applications:

Web history

Semantic Web

File Formats

What is a file format? A lot of my work has been in defining file formats, standards around them, protocols for negotiating formats for subsequent communication.

PDF

PDF, the Portable Document Format, was invented by Adobe folks more than 25 years ago—older than the web. Perhaps there are things we'd design differently today, but PDF is solid, widely deployed, and actively maintained. For some purposes, there's nothing like it. I've helped with some related efforts:

  • PDF and Open Data W3C Community Group established to document "best practices" for making data in PDF more accessible to simple processing using readily available tools.
  • RFC8118: updated the registration of "application/pdf" primarily to show the "owner" is now ISO (International Standards Organization) and not Adobe. (also see GitHub repo).
  • RFC7995: PDF Format for RFCs: The IETF is moving (slowly) to change its document format(s); IETF specs will be published in PDF and HTML (and XML), not just plain text. Note that the PDF file will include the XML as an attachment.

Metadata

Metadata is data about data: e.g., for a phone call, who called whom when; for a library book, the card catalog information. There are different kinds of metadata, and different ways of associating metadata with the data it describes.

Forms

Forms are an interesting component of file formats because they imply a request for information, and span the gap between User Interface and API.

Content Negotiation

Other standards

Sometimes things don't work out or have more narrow applicability than expected.

  • (1996) WebDAV working group
  • RFC 2542 "Terminology and Goals for Internet Fax." L. Masinter. 1999.
  • RFC 2534 "Media Features for Display, Print, and Fax." L. Masinter, D. Wing, A. Mutz, K. Holtman. 1999.
  • RFC 2532 "Extended Facsimile Using Internet Mail." L. Masinter, D. Wing. 1999.
  • Internet Printing

Standards Organizations & Processes

Computers around the world from different origins work with each other because everyone agrees how they should work. There's not a separate Internet for Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Adobe. But of course not everyone agrees; working out differences about the future is standards work.

Governance and the Internet

The primary value of the Internet comes from the fact there is only one, with everyone (and everything) connected. Governance (regulation, legislation) is local and hierarchical: city, state, region, country, with interactions relegated to treaties, negotiation, or worse (think "military"). How can anyone offer a global service and be subject to every constraint of every jurisdiction?

Other topics

Cloud services

  • (1997) 20 years ago (at Xerox), I led a 'documents.com' project which proposed a Software as a Service offering; see presentation. Any earlier 'clouds'? The important part was the plan to charge per 'click' (microservice), in the same way that Xerox made money per-page (selling supplies and service).

Internet of Things

Digital Preservation

How do you save documents for a long time? Life insurance policies, plans for buildings, personal health records.

Lisp

40 years ago, it was said Lisp was the second oldest programming language in common use (FORTRAN being the oldest), but I'm not sure that's still true.

Interlisp

Through around 1986 I worked on an evolving code base for Interlisp, a integrated software development environment for (IDE) Lisp programming, written in Lisp.

Common Lisp

Artificial Intelligence

Other Links