URIs: Codes Registry Identifiers

Identifiers (URIs) and Locators (URLs) are key concepts for the Registry.

The key message is to avoid copying URLs out of your browser URL bar, as a URL is often subtly different from the defined URI. Use the little "copy to clipboard" icon to the right of the URI, like the example below.

The Identifier for an entity is always the URI as defined in the middle of the page:

URI: https://codes.wmo.int//an-example-uri   

Uniform Resource Identifiers and Uniform Resource Locators

The W3 standards body define the terms URI: Uniform Resource Identifiers and URL: Uniform Resource Locators, along with the term URN: Uniform Resource Notation (which is not used within this Registry).



The primary job of the codes registry is to register URIs, controlled term identifiers to definitively define a term within the scope of the domain that owns the registry. URIs published on this registry are the WMO's structured definitions of terms.

An Entity defined within the Registry should have one and only one URI: the identifier for this entity.

The URI identifier shall also function as a locator, the URI shall resolve effectively.

Multiple Registry Locators

Within the registry implementations, there are numerous opportunities for further resolvable locators for identified entities. This can lead to confusion potential, which needs to be guarded against. Just because a URL resolves, doesn't mean it should be used as the identifier, always use the URI identifier.

Some examples of where a locator (URL) may resolve, but not be the identifier (URI), to aid understanding.


The registry supports HTTP over SSL and resolution of content using HTTPS URLs and secure connections. Content is served from HTTPS URLs to provide secure connection benefits. All HTTP content is identical to HTTPS content.

The URIs are, by design, always HTTP URIs within this registry. The identifier for an entity shall always be HTTP, even though the content resolution may use a HTTPS URL within a browser URL bar.

This pattern of HTTP identifiers and resolving content over HTTPS via rewrites is a common pattern across terminology publishing standards bodies such as W3.

Never use the HTTPS URL as a URI.

Entities, RegisterItems and Underscore characters

There are 2 core concepts, information types, internally to the registry software, that support the registry publishing: Entities and RegisterItems.

Entities are the things that we are defining or referencing within the registry. RegisterItems are how we manage the entities we register. The key way to see that a URL refers to a RegisterItem is the presence of the underscore character at the start of the last part of the fragment. The concepts are presented in more detail in the registry software documentation:


A RegisterItem may be defined by an external Entity or an Entity from another area of the register hierarchy, but the most common scenario is that a RegisterItem is managing an Entity defined in the same place.

In this common scenario, an Entity exists, e.g. http://codes.wmo.int/49-2/AirWxPhenomena/BKN_CLD which is managed by a RegisterItem, e.g. http://codes.wmo.int/49-2/AirWxPhenomena/BKN_CLD

The RegisterItem is identifiable by the presence of the leading underscore, _mo--74 as compared to mo--74.

The RegisterItem is a locator, but it is not the Identifier, the URI is the key name to use to reference from any other places, within queries and so on. The leading underscore fragment is not part of the name hierarchy and use of fragments with leading underscores can lead to 404 not found responses.

For implementation reasons, the browser interface will use registerItems in the browser URL bar. This is necessary for some content and thus is used for the browsing interface locators. However this can lead to further confusion between URIs and URLs.

Do not use interpret URLs with leading underscore characters in any of the fragment as URIs, always use the defined URI.

Managing Entities

Another way that RegisterItems are used is in providing further management of entities. A defined entity may be managed by one RegisterItem and define another RegisterItem, many RegisterItems defined by one entity.

The URI is always the URI of the entity, no fragment has a leading underscore character.