I propose (seriously, sorry) another tag

Tim Bray (tbray@opentext.com)
Mon, 31 Jul 95 01:44:19 EDT


Add a Header element that specifies geographical location,
by nation and postal code.


Many (but not all) of the pages on the WWW describe a resource; in many
(but not all) of these cases, the geographical location of the resource
is of interest to its potential users. Examples are: (a) a user looking
for a retail outlet (whether it be for cars, haircuts, or rail tickets),
(b) a user looking for a server to download a large electronic document
without intervening trans-ocean hops.

As the number of businesses on the Web continues to explode, a facility
for aiding navigation by automatic processing of geographical information
will become increasingly advantageous; I would suggest a necessity in
the not-too-distant future.

Obviously, people can (and do) include information about their location
in the text of their pages. However, it would be desirable if this
were included in a formally specified way such that browsers,
servers, and indexing tools could cooperate to make automatic use of it.

Fortunately, the standards communities and post offices of the world
have co-operated to provide a ready-made solution. Most countries
have postal codes, and most countries' postal codes have the desirable
property that they are constructed hierarchically left to right;
the effect is that the longer the prefix match between two postal codes,
the greater their likely proximity. For countries, ISO has
helpfully provided the digraph system.

This markup should go in the HEAD not the BODY, because it is designed
for machine, not human, processing. It should be an element not an
attribute, because it should be repeatable (consider a bookstore with
three branches). The country should be an attribute, because the range
of values is fixed and finite, and should be required, for obvious
reasons (although Americans will break this rule).


In the HTML 3 DTD, add the following nonterminal to the HEAD content
model: RESLOC*

and the following production:

<!ATTLIST RESLOC DG (AB | (200 other ISO digraphs) | ZA) #REQUIRED>


<title>Oxford University Press</title>
<resloc dg=uk>OX2 6DP</resloc>

<title>Trashy Tasteless Teen Titillation</title>
<resloc dg=us>90210</resloc>


1. This is open to abuse. People can claim to be places they're not.
The repeating nature of element exacerbates this problem.
2. Latitude/Longtitude would be more precise than postal code (but would
not obviate the need for country), but be a little harder to
process and a lot less likely for the average user to enter; also,
perhaps, less useful, since postal codes tend to reflect
convenience as well as distance.
3. Obviously this information is irrelevant for many web pages.
4. Browsers and authoring tools would have to be taught about this.


I am the main inventor and implementor of the Open Text Web Index
(http://www.opentext.com:8080). Finding stuff on the Web is no problem;
thinning out what you find is. One easy/pleasant/potentially-automatic
way would be by physical proximity to the user. The existence of this
kind of metadata element would make that task trivial, if page creators
used it, and the motivation to do so would in some cases be strong. But I
think I can claim to be speaking on behalf of anyone who builds tools for
Web navigation.

Cheers, Tim Bray, Open Text Corporation (tbray@opentext.com)