A morphism between extensions of R by I, over say A, is an algebra homomorphism E → E' that induces the identities on I and R. By the five lemma, such a morphism is necessarily an isomorphism, and so two extensions are equivalent if there is a morphism between them.
Example: Let R be a commutative ring and M an R-module. Let E = R ⊕ M be the direct sum of abelian groups. Define the multiplication on E by
Note that identifying (a, x) with a + εx where ε squares to zero and expanding out (a + εx)(b + εy) yields the above formula; in particular we see that E is a ring. We then have the short exact sequence
where p is the projection. Hence, E is an extension of R by M. One interesting feature of this construction is that the module M becomes an ideal of some new ring. In his "local rings", Nagata calls this process the principle of idealization.
- E. Sernesi: Deformations of algebraic schemes