The Global Names Architecture (GNA) is a system of databases, programs, and web services - a cyberinfrastructure - that will be used to discover, index, organize and interconnect on-line information about organisms and their names.
When a thing has a name, that name becomes an anchor around which we can collect our observations and knowledge. The use of names as a framework for knowledge of biology began with the system of scientific names introduced by Linnaeus about 250 years ago. His approach was to use latin binomials, such as Ba humbugi (it's a snail), Pompholyxophrys punicea (a microbe), or Homo sapiens (a self-aware biped). This system is still used for almost most organisms and most information such that names are included in almost every statement and database about organisms. In the e-world, names are metadata which can be used to discover and organize information about organisms.
There are an estimated about 2.2 million species (1.9 million living, and the remainder known only as fossils), with the number of described species growing by about 20,000 per year. The species are placed in an estimated 470,000 genera. There are likely to be at least 5 million species names that comply with the codes of nomenclature, and these may be represents in name strings with different combinations of characters. There are also many names and name-strings that are not compliant with the codes. At this time GNI is aware of 20 million namestrings for groups of organisms, most of which are minor spelling variants of other names.
The Global Names Architecture is a communal open environment that manages names so that we can manage information about organisms and serve the needs of biologists.