[whatwg] RDFa is to structured data, like canvas is to bitmap and SVG is to vector

Shelley Powers shelleyp at burningbird.net
Sat Jan 17 11:38:59 PST 2009

Ian Hickson wrote:
> On Sat, 17 Jan 2009, Sam Ruby wrote:
>> Shelley Powers wrote:
>>> So, why accept that we have to use MathML in order to solve the 
>>> problems of formatting mathematical formula? Why not start from 
>>> scratch, and devise a new approach?
>> Ian explored (and answered) that here:
>> http://lists.whatwg.org/pipermail/whatwg-whatwg.org/2008-April/014372.html
>> Key to Ian's decision was the importance of DOM integration for this 
>> vocabulary.  If DOM integration is essential for RDFa, then perhaps the 
>> same principles apply.  If not, perhaps some other principles may apply.
> Sam's point here bears repeating, because there seems to be an impression 
> that we took on SVG and MathML without any consideration, while RDF is 
> getting an unfair reception.
> On the contrary, SVG and MathML got the same reception. For MathML, for 
> instance, a number of options were very seriously considered, most notably 
> LaTeX. For SVG, we considered a variety of options including VML.
> I would encourage people to read the e-mail Sam cited:
>    http://lists.whatwg.org/pipermail/whatwg-whatwg.org/2008-April/014372.html
> It's long, but the start of it is a summary of what was considered and 
> shows that the same process derived from use cases was used for SVG and 
> MathML as is being used on this thread here.
I'm not doubting the effort that went into getting MathML and SVG 
accepted. I've followed the effort associated with SVG since the beginning.

I'm not sure if the same procedure was also applied to the canvas 
object, as well as the SQL query capability. Will assume so.

The point I'm making is that you set a precedent, and a good one I 
think: giving precedence to "not invented here". In other words, to not 
re-invent new ways of doing something, but to look for established 
processes, models, et al already in place, implemented, vetted, etc, 
that solve specific problems. Now that you have accepted a use case, 
Martin's, and we've established that RDFa solves the problem associated 
with the use case, the issue then becomes is there another data model 
already as vetted, documented, implemented that would better solve the 

I propose that RDFa is the best solution to the use case Martin 
supplied, and we've shown how it is not a disruptive solution to HTML5.

The fact that it is based on RDF, a mature, well documented, widely used 
model with many different implementations is a perk.


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