[whatwg] RDFa Problem Statement

Manu Sporny msporny at digitalbazaar.com
Tue Aug 26 07:22:01 PDT 2008

Kristof Zelechovski wrote:
> Web browsers are (hopefully) designed so that they run in every culture.  If
> you define a custom vocabulary without considering its ability to describe
> phenomena of other cultures and try to impose it worldwide, you do more harm
> than good to the representatives of those cultures.  And considering it
> properly does require much time and effort; I do not think you can have that
> off the shelf without actually listening to them.

Kristof - I believe that you may also be confounding the concept of "the
method of expression" and the "vocabulary". RDFa is the method of
expression, the vocabulary uses that method of expression to convey

RDFa is a collection of properties[1] for HTML family languages that are
used to express semantics through the use of a vocabulary. For an
example of what an RDF vocabulary page looks like, check out the following:


That page is marked up using RDFa to not only provide a human-readable
version of the vocabulary, but a machine readable version of the

> In a way, complaining that the Microformats protocol impedes innovation is
> like saying 'we are big and rich and strong, so either you accommodate or
> you do not exist'.  Not that I do not understand; it is straightforward to
> say so and it happens all the time.

It's easy to miss the effect that the Microformats approach has on
innovation because it isn't stated directly in any Microformats
literature. I'd like to re-iterate that I have spent many, many hours
creating specifications in the Microformats community and have seen this
effect first-hand. I'd like to not focus on theory, but the state of the
world as it is right now.

Right now, the Microformats process requires everyone to go through our
community to create a vocabulary. It is the "we are big and rich and
strong, so either you accommodate or you do not exist" approach that you
seem to be arguing against.

If someone were to come along and request that bloodline be added to the
hCard format, it would be rejected as a corner-case. So, unless I
understood you incorrectly, RDFa provides a more open environment for
innovation because it doesn't require any sort of central authority to
approve a vocabulary.

One of the things that RDFa strives to do, and is successful at doing,
is to not give anyone power over what a constitutes a "valid" vocabulary.

If that's not what you were attempting to express, you will have to
explain it again, please.

-- manu

[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/rdfa-syntax#rdfa-attributes

Manu Sporny
President/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
blog: Bitmunk 3.0 Website Launches

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