Another approach to the problem of identification, assign an arbitrary identifier for which you hold the key.
If you start early enough in a particular era, you can gain enough of an advantage to deter most competitors. Particularly if you curate the professional literature so that you can provide effective searching based on your (and other) identifiers.
The similarity to the Semantic Web’s assignment of a URL to every subject is not accidental.
The main differences with the Semantic Web:
- Economically important activity was focus of the project.
- Professional literature base with obvious value-add potential for research and production.
- Single source curators of the identifiers (did not whine at others to create them).
- Identification where there was user demand to support the effort.
The Wiki page reports (in part):
CAS Registry Numbers are unique numerical identifiers assigned by the “Chemical Abstracts Service” to every chemical described in the open scientific literature (currently including those described from at least 1957 through the present) and including elements, isotopes, organic and inorganic compounds, organometallics, metals, alloys, coordination compounds, minerals, and salts; as well as standard mixtures, compounds, polymers; biological sequences including proteins & nucleic acids; nuclear particles, and nonstructurable materials (aka ‘UVCB’s- i.e., materials of Unknown, Variable Composition, or Biological origin). They are also referred to as CAS RNs, CAS Numbers, etc.
The Registry maintained by CAS is an authoritative collection of disclosed chemical substance information. Currently the CAS Registry identifies more than 56 million organic and inorganic substances and 62 million sequences, plus additional information about each substance; and the Registry is updated with an approximate 12,000 additional new substances daily.
Historically, chemicals have been identified by a wide variety of synonyms. Frequently these are arcane and constructed according to regional naming conventions relating to chemical formulae, structures or origins. Well-known chemicals may additionally be known via multiple generic, historical, commercial, and/or black-market names.
PS: The index is now at 61+ million substances.