[uf-discuss] XFN for email addresses?

Ryan King ryan at technorati.com
Wed Jun 13 20:01:55 PDT 2007

On Jun 13, 2007, at 4:25 PM, Chris Messina wrote:
> On 6/13/07, Ryan King <ryan at technorati.com> wrote:
>> On Jun 12, 2007, at 8:15 PM, Chris Messina wrote:
>> > Clearly the biggest issue I see with this scheme is the  
>> inability to
>> > link out *from* the email address. However, I'm not sure that this
>> > case nullifies the utility of such links.
>> And this is a quite large issue. It effectively removes the N in XFN.
>> It's hard to build a network where some nodes can only by sinks[1].
>> -ryan
>> 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degree_(graph_theory)#Sink
> [Trying again....]
> And while that is a valid concern to be noted, I don't think that it
> precludes using non-URL based indicators as person identifiers.

Just be clear, I believe that by "non-URL" you mean "non-HTTP-URL".

> I mean, I'm a huge proponent of OpenID and URLs for identity; at the
> same time, that vision doesn't match with reality and I don't think
> it's going to change immediately; therefore, XFN should not be able to
> deal with the established convention even while things are (hopefully)
> moving in the direction of URL-based identifiers.
> In any case, consider mailing list subscriptions -- the fact that a
> message is sent to the identifier (aka your email address) and you
> respond by clicking a confirmation link proving that you can receive
> messages sent to that email address is no different than Technorati's
> current Javascript-based URL-claiming mechanism, whereby, instead of
> clicking a link, you insert a script that Technorati expects to find
> at the destination URL. The same argument can be made for IM links,
> since a bot could ping you and ask you for some data that only you
> would know, and if you're able to respond accurately, then you've
> similarly proven "ownership" of that destination.

Actually they are different in an important way. The code we give  
people to put on their blogs includes rel="me" and when blog claims  
are successfully completed, we link back to the blog with rel="me" [1].

So, these assertions are public and can be indexed by anyone.

To step back a bit, I see nothing wrong with trying to use email  
addresses to connect people's identities. It seems to be a cowpath  
that's already paved. However, I don't think it fits very cleanly  
into XFN.

For example, you can do:

  <a rel="met" href="mailto:ryan at theryanking.com">ryan king</a>

Which is a clear, unambigious assertion, there's no way to connect  
the URL mailto:ryan at theryanking.com to the rest of the XFN network  
via identity reconciliation and without that, we lack a lot of utility.

Of course, I don't really have a better suggestion right now. :) But  
I think we can find a better way to do this.


1. We know this doesn't work for multi-author blogs, we're working  
around that.

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