A Uniform Resource Name is a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) that uses the urn scheme, and does not imply availability of the identified resource. Both URNs (names) and URLs (locators) are URIs, and a particular URI may be a name and a locator at the same time.
The Functional Requirements for Uniform Resource Names are described in RFC 1737. The URNs are part of a larger Internet information architecture which is composed of URNs, Uniform Resource Characteristics (URCs), and Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). Each plays a specific role:
- URNs are used for identification,
- URCs for including meta-information.
- URLs for locating or finding resources.
RFC 2141 ("URN Syntax") says:
Uniform Resource Names (URNs) are intended to serve as persistent, location-independent resource identifiers and are designed to make it easy to map other namespaces (that share the properties of URNs) into URN-space. Therefore, the URN syntax provides a means to encode character data in a form that can be sent in existing protocols, transcribed on most keyboards, etc.
It is worth noting that, as stated in RFC 3986 ("Uniform Resource Identifier Generic Syntax"),
The term "Uniform Resource Name" (URN) has been used historically to refer to both URIs under the "urn" scheme (RFC 2141), which are required to remain globally unique and persistent even when the resource ceases to exist or becomes unavailable, and to any other URI with the properties of a name.
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