What’s in a Name?


When you refer to a piece of software by name, do you ever think about what that name really means? Rarely is a name just a token to refer to something, usually it is designed to make you feel a certain way or think about the target in a specific light. This is certainly the case with NetAuth.

NetAuth is supposed to make you think about the first two A’s in AAA. That is, authentication and authorization. This is the ‘Auth’ part of the name. The ‘Net’ part of the name should tell you where this ‘Auth’ comes from: the network. Since network authentication is often difficult and fiddly to implement, NetAuth aimed to be a quick answer to a complex problem by being the shortened form of the very problem people try to solve.

While this name is a great way to connote an idea with a solution, it doesn’t work so well in actually specifying the name in the software itself. NetAuth is written in Go, which has some expectations around package names. One of the biggest is that package names are lower case. This helps to type them since you don’t have to reach for the shift key, and it helps to make the name-space of all Go package names uniform. When NetAuth started, the idea was to keep the name formatted the same in all locations, this turned out to be a mistake and is being fixed now rather than later. As the logrus project learned the hard way, changing the name of a package is a very difficult thing to do if left for too long.

Additionally, upper case names in Go packages can behave weirdly on file-systems that are case-insensitive. In these systems it is possible to import a title-cased package as all lower case. The code will work as expected until it is moved to a host that uses a case sensitive file-system, where it will break with non-obvious compiler errors. By standardizing on the lower case naming convention, this problem is alleviated.

Starting with commit 710937e, all references to paths in the source code will use the fully lower cased format github.com/netauth/netauth. The proper way to refer to the service though is still NetAuth with the title-case capitalization. This change also coincides with the release of the NetAuth2 protocol, and should be the last major breaking change to the publicly provided interface.

>> Home