Why double-slashes in URIs?

Why do we need a double-slash (//) in a URI after the protocol and colon? mailto: and news: URIs don’t use it, but http:// and ftp:// ones do. It seems to me that the ones with double-slashes define things that look like filesystem paths (i.e., may have / in them as a separator) and ones without do not, but I can’t see why you need it; why would http:www.kryogenix.org/writings/earthquake not be a perfectly reasonable URI? RFC2396 doesn’t seem to help in this regard, in that it says they’re required but not really why, unless I missed something. I bet Hixie knows why this is. ——-

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