The Cover PagesThe OASIS Cover Pages: The Online Resource for Markup Language Technologies
Advanced Search
Site Map
CP RSS Channel
Contact Us
Sponsoring CP
About Our Sponsors

Cover Stories
Articles & Papers
Press Releases

XML Query

XML Applications
General Apps
Government Apps
Academic Apps

Technology and Society
Tech Topics
Related Standards
Last modified: January 19, 2003
Extensible Name Service (XNS)

In December 2002, OASIS received a request from members to form an Extensible Resource Identifier (XRI) Technical Committee. The TC will build upon the XNS Specification. The goal of this XRI TC is to "define a URI scheme and a corresponding URN namespace for distributed directory services that enable the identification of resources (including people and organizations) and the sharing of data across domains, enterprises, and applications." The announcement/CFP is referenced below.

[January 08, 2003]   OASIS Forms Extensible Resource Identifier (XRI) Technical Committee.    OASIS members have formed a new technical committee to establish a common identification scheme for distributed directory services. The Extensible Resource Identifier (XRI) Technical Committee purposes to create a URI scheme and a corresponding URN namespace for distributed directory services that enable the identification of resources (including people and organizations) and the sharing of data across domains, enterprises, and applications. XNS Public Trust Organization (XNSORG) will contribute the Extensible Name Service (XNS) specifications to the TC to serve as a basis for the OASIS committee work. The committee "will define a Uniform Resource Identifer (URI) scheme and a corresponding Uniform Resource (URN) namespace that meet these requirements, as well as basic mechanisms for resolving XRIs and exchanging data and metadata associated with XRI-identified resources." The TC Co-Chairs are Drummond Reed (OneName) and Gabe Wachob (Visa International).

[December 10, 2002] "OASIS TC Call For Participation: Extensible Resource Identifier Technical Committee (XRI TC)." - [Excerpted from the proposal:] "Increasingly, there is a demand for distributed directory services that enable the identification of resources (including people and organizations) and the sharing of data across domains, enterprises, and applications. There are currently no transport- and application-neutral identification schemes to support this infrastructure. The purpose of this committee is to define a URI scheme and a corresponding URN namespace that meet these requirements. This TC will also define basic mechanisms for resolving the identifiers in these schemes and for exchanging data associated with these identifiers. This work will enable the creation of Web-like collections of resources (including, but not limited to, data, systems, services, organizations, and people) that extend the WWW's current generalized addressing and linking capabilities. The URI scheme will conform to RFC 2396. It will also accommodate human-readable names as a subset of the compliant identifiers. The TC will also produce an interoperable URN namespace specification compliant with RFC 2141 and guided by the requirements in RFC 1737 for resources that need the ability to be persistently identified and linked. The TC will also define an XML schema to associate metadata with resources and a service to manipulate this metadata and data associated with the resources. Specifically, this service will reflect the simple transactional nature of the WWW, i.e., it will use a small set of REST (Representational State Transfer) or CRUD-like operators on an infinitely extensible set of XRI-addressable resources. This data exchange service will provide a platform for integration with directory-related specifications such as LDAP, DSML, and SPML. This TC's work will be influenced by the general architecture described in XNS and specifically by the XNS Addressing Specification. The XNS specifications published by the XNS Public Trust Organization (XNSORG) will be contributed to the TC for consideration in the committee's work. XNS is licensed under RF terms..." General references in "Extensible Name Service (XNS)."

[July 11, 2002]   OneName Corporation Releases Extensible Name Service (XNS) Protocol Specifications.    An announcement from OneName Corporation describes the release of the XNS specifications under a royalty-free license and the submission of these specifications to the non-profit XNS Public Trust Organization (XNSORG). "These XML-based specifications for eleven (11) Web services and an identity addressing syntax create the first open, federated, peer-to-peer infrastructure for identifying and linking any resource participating in digital transactions. Extensible Name Service (XNS) is a protocol for digital identity and relationship management that spans any number of devices and domains. Whereas DNS (Domain Name System) is a protocol designed for federated naming of Internet hosts at the TCP/IP level, XNS is designed for modeling and managing the identity of any actor at the SOAP level, including people, businesses, machines, applications, objects, classes, etc. XNS enables identity controllers to register and use XNS identities to automate the exchange of any set of data associated with an identity while providing protection for the security and privacy of this data. OneName will also make available open-source Java Reference Implementations (JRIs) based on the protocol; an open-source client JRI is available immediately and an open-source server JRI will be available in Fall 2002."

[October 02, 2000] XNS (Extensible Name Service) is "a new open protocol and open-source platform for universal addressing, automated data exchange, and privacy control. XNS is based on two key technologies: XML, the new global standard for platform-independent information exchange, and web agents, a patented new technology that automates the exchange, linking, and synchronization of information between publishers and subscribers over digital networks. XNS combines XML and web agents to create a complete integrated infrastructure for automated information exchange between consumers and businesses anywhere on the wired or wireless Internet. Like DNS, XNS is a globally distributed network that can be implemented by any ISP, portal, corporation, university, or other network service provider. Unlike DNS, however, all XNS agencies and agents enter into registration agreements incorporating global terms specified by the XNS Public Trust Organization (XNSORG), an independent non-profit organization responsible for governance of the XNS global trust community. . . The next evolutionary step beyond a domain name, an XNS address is not just an email address, a phone number, a fax number, or a Web page, but a single 'superaddress' which consolidates all other addressing and profile data into a single XML digital container. This container is managed by an XNS agent following the owner's privacy and security rules. The beauty of XNS addresses is that they never have to change for the lifetime of a person, product, service, or company, no matter how often any other contact data changes. Furthermore, an XNS address can be as simple as your name-up to 64 characters, in any Unicode language, with no awkward syntax or punctuation. . . XNS provides the first open-source, globally distributed solution to universal registration. One click on the XNS login button at any XNS-enabled web site and your personal web agent instantly negotiates a private login key, so all you ever need to remember is your own XNS name and password. Every XNS form negotiated between two XNS agents results in an XNS contract stored by each agent. Besides recording the applicable privacy and security policies (including support for new W3C P3P privacy policies), XNS contracts record each XNS privacy permission granted by the agent owner for the user of their data. XNS privacy contracts are the missing foundation in a global privacy framework, giving consumers easy, immediate access to their permission records and businesses a simple, global vocabulary for true permission marketing." [From 'XNS in a Nutshell']

"XNS data schemas are defined using XML itself, following the proposed W3C XML Schemas specification. XNS is designed to resolve a name into any type of attribute which can be defined in an XML schema and exchanged using XML. In addition, XNS schemas are themselves registered in XNS. This means schema definitions are easily named, addressed, and synchronized just like any other XNS data instance. As with XML documents, XNS objects are a nested tree of component objects which are all one of two types: schema objects, which represent registered XNS schema definitions, and instance objects containing the attributes values for the resource. Following the rules of XML Schemas, all instance objects must be valid instances of schema objects. Because all XNS schema objects are themselves registered in XNS, XNS acts as one completely self-referential logical XML document." Phase Two of the will also introduce user-defined schemas: "as it is with XML, distributed schema authoring is one of the key extensibility features of XNS. In Phase Two agencies, businesses, and individuals will be able to define, publish, subscribe, and update their own XNS schemas in addition to those defined by XNSORG."

"Using web agent technology, the architects of XNS set out to solve three primary design objectives. (1) Universal Addresses: true 'universal address,' e.g., a single human-friendly name that can function as an address for all types of digital communications. Because this address can be resolved into an XML document containing any other communications network address (phone number, fax number, email address, URL, etc.), it is completely 'abstracted' from any particular communications network. This has three key advantages: The address never needs to change for the life of the resource it represents, or longer; Links to the address never have to break; the address doesn't need to follow any special formatting or syntactic restrictions -- it can be as simply as any name or phrase in XML (i.e., Unicode). (2) Automatic Linking and Synchronization: web agents [need] to create them automatically when information is exchanged and update them automatically when information changes. (3) Negotiated Control and Privacy Protection: provide negotiated control over any information exchange between two web agents using an extensible control vocabulary. Using this vocabulary, web agents could negotiate -- either automatically or with the assistance of their owner -- every aspect of a communications relationship, including privacy, security, updating, forwarding, archiving, and even termination of the relationship. This control is especially relevant when it comes to privacy. Early on, the developers of web agent technology realized that the more personal information migrates to a digital medium, the more easily it can be transfered, aggregated, and mined. This is one of the fundamental reasons why privacy and spam have become such profound problems on the net..."

Background: "In January 1999, the first of Intermind's web agent patents began being issued (starting with U.S. patent No. 5,862,325). At the heart of this patent was a new naming and addressing service based on web agent technology. With the emergence of XML as a new global data interchange language -- one perfectly suited to the requirements of a global 'language' for web agents -- Intermind changed its name to OneName Corporation, built a new board and management team, and embarked on the development of this new global naming and addressing service. Because its use of XML as the foundation for all object representation and interchange led to the platform, yet had the same distributed architecture as DNS, it was christened eXtensible Name Service, or XNS. Recognizing the ultimate impact such a system may have on Internet infrastructure, and the crucial role that privacy, security, and trust must play, OneName also made the commitment to building it with open standards, open source software, and an open independent governance organization. Thus was born the XNS Public Trust Organization (XNSORG), the entity charged with setting the technical, operational, and legal standards for XNS."

Princial References

  • XNS Home Page

  • XNS Technical Overview

  • XNS Charter

  • XNSORG mailing lists

  • Announcement 2002-07-11: "OneName Releases the XNS Technical Specifications. First Open Protocol for Digital Identity Infrastructure."

  • Extensible Name Service (XNS) Technical Specifications. Version 1.0. Published by the XNS Public Trust Organization (XNSORG). July 9, 2002. 306 pages. Normative Appendix A presents the WSDL files; Normative Appendix B presents the XSD Schema files. The distribution archive contains eleven (11) XML Schema files; see the file listing. [cache HTML/ZIP; cache PDF]

  • XNS Service Specification. Browsable HTML version for the XNS Service Specification, which is one part of XNS Technical Specification v1.0. Also in downloadable .ZIP format

  • [January 21, 2004]   OASIS Members Form XRI Data Interchange (XDI) Technical Committee.    A new OASIS XDI Technical Committee has been created to define a "generalized, extensible, location-, application-, and transport-independent service for sharing, linking, and synchronizing data over the Internet and other data networks using XML documents and XRIs (Extensible Resource Identifiers), a URI-compatible abstract identifier scheme defined by the OASIS XRI Technical Committee. With XDI, data from any data source can be identified, described, linked, and synchronized into an active, machine-readable "dataweb" just as content from any content source can be identified and linked into the human-readable Web today. A particular purpose of XDI is to allow the controls needed to mediate access and usage of shared data to be expressed as XDI links. These data sharing controls can govern authority, authentication, authorization, access control, usage control, transmission, synchronization, and rights management. The integration of such controls into a common, generalized data-oriented service can provide a new platform for trusted data sharing networks and applications." The TC will define an "XDI meta-schema for describing and linking XRI-identified resources, XRI resolution rules within XDI documents, the WSDL for XDI service and bindings to common transport protocols such as HTTP, SOAP, and SMTP/MIME, and the XDI service dictionary. The service dictionary is the set of globally-shared XDI resources that can be used to define, control, secure, and protect data sharing relationships using XDI." A first meeting of the XDI TC will be held as a teleconference on February 20, 2004. Technical specifications produced by the TC are intended to be royalty-free.

  • [January 19, 2004]   OASIS TC Promotes Extensible Resource Identifier (XRI) Specification.    A Committee Draft of the Extensible Resource Identifier (XRI) Generic Syntax and Resolution Specification has been approved by the OASIS XRI Technical Committee in advance of its submission for consideration as an OASIS Standard. The XRI TC was chartered "to define a URI scheme and a corresponding URN namespace for distributed directory services that enable the identification of resources (including people and organizations) and the sharing of data across domains, enterprises, and applications." XRI TC work incorporates several features of the XNS (eXtensible Name Service) technology, and is broadly aligned with the goals of the Identity Commons Initiative. The TC Charter asserts that "there is a demand for distributed directory services that enable the identification of any type of resource, both those directly on the network and those abstract from it, and the sharing of data across domains, enterprises, and applications. Meeting this need requires an extensible, location-, application-, and transport-independent identification scheme that provides addressability not just of resources, but also of their attributes and versions." XRIs function like URIs and have a syntax mirroring URIs: a scheme name (xri:) followed by the same four optional components as a generic URI, thus: xri: authority / path ? query # fragment, where the definitions of these components are, for the most part, supersets of the equivalent components in the generic URI syntax. XRIs may be used either as indirect 'names' or direct 'locators' for resources, including other XRIs. The XRI scheme also includes syntax for distinguishing whether an XRI is intended only for identification or also for resolution. XRI syntax extends generic URI syntax by providing support for persistent and reassignable segments, unlimited delegation of namespaces, global context symbols, cross-references (containment of other URIs or XRIs), self-references (a form of cross-reference indicating that an entire XRI is intended as a unique identifier, not for network resolution), and an internationalized character set. XRIs use Unicode for internationalization following the W3C's draft for Internationalized Resource Identifiers (IRI).

  • [January 08, 2003] "The Identity Web. An Overview of XNS and the OASIS XRI TC XML Working Group." By Marc LeMaitre (VP Technology Strategy, OneName Corporation). December 17, 2002. Presented to the XML Working Group. PDF generated from the presentation slides; see also the HTML format. The presentation: introduces the idea of the 'Identity Web'; provides an explanation of the motivating forces; compares and contrasts it to the WWW; introduces the eXtensible Name Service (XNS); offers an update on XNS in standards... What if every digital identity on the Internet could be (1) Rendered in a common format, (2) Exchanged using a common protocol, (3) Addressed and linked using a common syntax -- the result would be 'an Identity Web'..." See other notes in the meeting minutes: "What is Web identity if it is different from Enterprise identity? XNS is neutral. It is an open protocol based on XML. The protocol will be managed by XNS org. When you talk about security, you are also talking about trust and privacy. Twelve Web services are specified in WSDL 1.1 and XML Schemas 1.0. XNS creates a Web identity architecture. P3P user agent profile -- an agent being the way we have implemented and are publishing the DNS infrastructure. IP-> DNS -> XNS Internet standards-> Web standards -> Web services standards. This is the assumption that you want identity rather than anonymity. Web identity is evolving just as Web content evolved in the last decade. There is a need to be able to harmonize across your different identities, for example, the same person can hold two vastly different identities, one as a father and one as an employee. There is a need to be able to represent me as an individual to a bank and also to the HMO." See the 2003-01-08 news item "OASIS Forms Extensible Resource Identifier (XRI) Technical Committee."

  • The Identity Web: Key Concepts of XNS Architecture." July 9, 2002. 23 pages. Provides a short overview to the major architectural features of XNS. [cache]

  • "XNS Service Models." July 9, 2002. 11 pages. "This document contains static structure diagrams for the abstract UML object models from which the concrete XNS service definitions are derived."

  • "XNS Use Cases." July 9, 2002. 27 pages. "Illustrates how XNS solves common problems of cross-domain identity management, using sequence diagrams and user narratives."

  • "From Name Service to Identity Service: How XNS Builds on the DNS Model." July 9, 2002. 34 pages. "A technical white paper that provides an introduction to XNS by comparing it with an established Internet infrastructure protocol, DNS."

  • " Top Ten Questions about XNS." October 7, 2001. [cache]

  • OneName Corporation. See the reference for OneName XNS Name Service.

Earlier References

[Link persistence is one of the goals of XNS technology.]

  • XNS in a Nutshell. An Overview from the XNS Public Trust Organization

  • XNS Backgrounder

  • The XNS Logical Document. "The XNS Logical Document is a detailed white paper explaining the XML logical architecture of XNS, and how all of XNS comprises a single logical XML document." [NYA 2000-10-02]

  • XNS Naming and Addressing Whitepaper.

  • XNS FAQ Document

  • XNS White Papers

  • [October 02, 2000] "XNS: Where Everybody Knows Your Name." By Spencer F. Katt. In eWEEK (October 01, 2000). "The furry one cut short his web search for pics of Geena Davis in her revealing Emmy night attire when he stumbled onto The brainchild of a Seattle-based outfit called OneName, XNS, or Extensible Name Service, is an open-source platform for universal addressing, automated data exchange and privacy control. In fact, privacy is the main factor OneName hopes will draw attention to its spin on the idea of universal addressing. El Gato has heard many arguments, pro and con, over the concept of using a single name, or universal Web address, but this one may have some legs. XNS enables individuals and e-commerce sites to inter act, create links and establish privacy boundaries. XNS agents allow users to control personal data by including an XML document that specifies privacy and security terms granted by the owner. OneName has licensed XNS to, which will be the nonprofit governing body of the technology. An XNS name is intended to be a personal name for life. OneName is offering one personal XNS name for free to the first million applicants. If e-biz sites and individuals buy into XNS naming, the Kitty envisions a domain-name-like stampede down the line. 'Hey, the current price works for me,' chuckled the Frugal Feline."

  • [October 06, 2000] "Web agent technology addresses privacy needs Start-up OneName's extensible name service safeguards exchange of XML documents between end users and Web sites." By Carolyn Duffy Marsan. In Network World (October 02, 2000). "Start-up OneName announces today an Internet data exchange technology that lets Web sites offer their customers an array of features including privacy protection, one-click registration and automatic form filling. Called the extensible name service (XNS), the technology creates Web agents to exchange personal profile information between end users and Web sites. XNS processes, links and synchronizes documents written in XML. With XNS, an end user can create an XML document that includes the person's name, e-mail address and other personal information. This digital profile is managed by an XNS personal Web agent, which distributes the information according to the end user's privacy and security preferences. When the end user visits an XNS-compliant Web site, his Web agent selectively releases information to negotiate privacy contracts, enter passwords and fill out forms. If the end user changes his digital profile, his Web agent automatically updates the information on every compatible Web site..."

Hosted By
OASIS - Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards

Sponsored By

IBM Corporation
ISIS Papyrus
Microsoft Corporation
Oracle Corporation


XML Daily Newslink
Receive daily news updates from Managing Editor, Robin Cover.

 Newsletter Subscription
 Newsletter Archives
Globe Image

Document URI:  —  Legal stuff
Robin Cover, Editor: