[whatwg] Trying to work out the problems solved by RDFa

Henri Sivonen hsivonen at iki.fi
Sun Jan 4 05:17:39 PST 2009

On Jan 3, 2009, at 17:05, Dan Brickley wrote:

> But perhaps a more practical concern is that it unfairly biases  
> things towards popular languages - lucky English, lucky Spanish,  
> etc., and those that lend themselves more to NLP analysis. The Web  
> is for everyone, and people shouldn't be forced to read and write  
> English to enjoy the latest advances in Web automation.

Some languages are higher in the pecking order than others when  
software development is prioritized, and RDFa cannot level the playing  
field here.

Suppose there's a use case that can be satisfactorily addressed by  
applying NLP heuristics to content for the top-tier languages. Even if  
there were an RDF mechanism for addressing the same use case without  
relying on natural language, software aimed for serving the top-tier  
languages would still do the NLP thing for the use case. Thus, the  
development of the parallel RDF-based solution would be borne by the  
communities using the other languages. If the other languages can't  
get the users of the top-tier languages to use the same technical  
solution, they are still at a disadvantage even if an alternative  
technology stack is theoretically possible, because most software  
development effort goes into what makes sense for the top-tier  
languages without the results being applicable also for the other  

Instead of bearing the cost of developing a totally alternative  
technology stack for the other languages without benefiting from any  
spillover from the effort done for the top-tier languages, it makes  
more sense to invest the effort into building upon the reusable parts  
already developed for the top-tier languages.

(Quick case study about language-sensitive technology adoption and  
markets: When movable type was developed, a *subset* of the alphabet  
used for German--the native language of printing press suppliers--was  
adopted for Finnish. Today, hundreds of years later, digital font  
availability for Finnish is better than font availability for  
languages of comparable installed base that adopted *extensions* for  
the alphabet used for German or that used a totally different script.  
That is, NIH *still* hasn't caught up with the first-mover advantage  
as far as type goes.)

Henri Sivonen
hsivonen at iki.fi

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