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Subject: Re: [xdi] proposal for binary data literal node

I want to stress that storage of binaries is not a niche use case. It doesn't matter what kind of implementation you are using--rdbms, ldap, or file system--you will want to treat binaries differently. An implementation detail is what do you do with the binaries, not whether you know if you have a binary.

If we don't solve this, and we're stuck with some lame solutions like encoding binaries (i.e. like in SMTP), it would be a missed opportunity for the TC.

How about a new type of arc: the "binary arc" ?

See inline comments below.

If for optimization purposes a server needs to know the data type of a
literal (binary, number, boolean, etc.), then it could either
1. figure out the data type based on the dictionary, or

I don't understand your suggestion here. How would a dictionary be helpful? How could you guarantee that the dictionary is known when you are parsing the XDI statements?

2. require (as a policy) that clients add the literal together with the
metadata that specifies the data type

no, per my previous comment, there is no guarantee the metadata would be loaded first.


On Fri, Mar 2, 2012 at 3:05 PM, Michael Schwartz <mike@gluu.org> wrote:

I think we need a way to differentiate binary literals if we want to
support storage of binaries in the graph. And simply storing metadata is
not sufficient because there is no guarantee that the metadata is created
before the literal needs to be stored. Is there a solution?




Michael Schwartz
Founder / CEO
+1 646-810-8761

On Thu, 1 Mar 2012, Drummond Reed wrote:

 Mike, the question you raised actually highlights a number of the key
reasons for the literal context proposal. Let me explain.

First, per Markus' last point in his message, one primary purpose of
literal contexts is so an XDI processor always knows the type of the
literal node it is dealing with by the type of the literal context. To use
Mike's example, if "*logo" is defined as a literal context containing a
binary value (which has several semantic issues -- see below), then
@!1111*logo always identifies a single binary value.

Secondly, it's a misunderstanding of literal contexts that there could be
two literal arcs. The whole idea of a literal context is that it has a
single literal arc. If the literal context is defined as containing binary
data, then that literal arc points to binary data. If the literal context
is defined as containing a number, then the literal arc points to a
And so on.

These are all controlled by XDI dictionary definitions, which is why I
think the XDI Dictionary spec is moving up in priority.

Now, the semantic issues. First, @!1111*logo is semantically wrong because
uses a *name to identify a literal context defined in a dictionary, and *
is not the dictionary namespace. The dictionary namespace is + (with the
exceptions of a handful of special $words defined by the XDI TC).

So it should be @!1111+logo. The second semantic issue is that +logo
not be a literal context because it is not a single defined datatype.
should be a supertype that has defined subtypes. In other words, the
dictionary defintion should say +logo/$is$a/+image, and (among other
options) +$image/$a/$a$xsd$jpeg. So if the binary you wanted was a JPEG,
then the address would be:

 1. @!1111+logo$a$xsd$jpeg  <== canonical JPEG version of the logo
 2. @!1111+logo/$a$xsd$jpeg  <== (note the slash) relational arc pointing

 to all the JPEF versions of the logo (zero-or-more)

So it is the dictionary-defined  $jpeg, and not +logo (and definitely not
*logo) that is the XRI literal context storing the binary data. And
the $dictionary will define $jpeg as a JPEG binary, any time an XDI
processor sees $jpeg as the literal context, it knows the value is a JPEG.

I'll put this on the agenda for tomorrow's call (even though Mike won't be

On Thu, Mar 1, 2012 at 4:35 PM, Michael Schwartz <mike@gluu.org> wrote:


Thanks for the quick response!

1. Yes, you could have both a ! and !! arc, why not?  It doesn't seem
inherently problematic to me.

2. yes, you're right I forgot the / for the literal arc :)

3. !! was just an idea... it could be something else.

4. Its useful to be able to differentiate binary data from other types of
 data because there persistence strategy varies greatly.

- Mike

 1. Could you have BOTH a binary and a non-binary literal in a context?

have a ! arc and a !! arc.
If not, will the server throw an error if you already have one literal
try to add the other one?

2. In your example, wouldn't the XRI actually be @!1111*logo/!! instead
@!1111*logo!!  ?

3. Something is bothering me about the fact that !! is two subsegments.
am worried it will result in ambiguity in one way or the other.

4. I don't understand why you can't load the metadata together with the
literal, to figure out whether it is binary or not.
Wasn't this the whole point of what Drummond called "literal contexts"?


On Thu, Mar 1, 2012 at 9:49 PM, Michael Schwartz <mike@gluu.org> wrote:


I'm attaching a proposal to represent binary literal values as "!!"

So, for example, the XRI for a my company's logo might be :

The fact that the image is a binary can't be represented in the
because it is not known which will be loaded first, the literal node,
the metadata about the literal node.

This is a critical issue to optimize persistence of binary objects,
need to be indexed differently.

I'd like to fast track this because we need to store binaries as part
the oxPlus demo :)



- Mike

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