[whatwg] Annotating structured data that HTML has no semantics for

Shelley Powers shelleyp at burningbird.net
Tue May 12 13:34:45 PDT 2009

Ian Hickson wrote:
> On Tue, 12 May 2009, Peter Mika wrote:
>> Just a quick comment on:
>>   it uses prefixes, which most authors simply do not understand, and
>>   which many implementors end up getting wrong (e.g. SearchMonkey
>>   hard-coded certain prefixes in its first implementation, Google's
>>   handling of RDF blocks for license declarations is all done with
>> Actually, the problem we see is not so much the prefixes themselves but rather
>> the cumbersome way of specifying namespace prefix definitions using xmlns. So
>> I think it would make sense to have some mechanism for referencing bundles of
>> namespace prefixes ('profiles') or namespace registries, in order to easy
>> authoring.
>> In terms of prefixes, I find that 'com.foaf-project.name' is a lot more 
>> difficult to write than 'foaf:name'. Reverse domain names are 
>> non-intuitive for non-programmer types (or non-Java programmers).
> If we can come up with a way of using the string "foaf:name" without 
> having to declare "foaf" in each document, I'm totally in agreement. I've 
> considered maybe registering the "foaf" URL scheme, or using some other 
> punctuation character and having people register prefixes, but I don't 
> know what punctuation character to use (':' and '.' are both taken).
But then we would lose the extensibility, which is the power behind all 
of this.

If I remember correctly, Henri had an issue with the DOM when it came to 
support of namespaces in XHTML, and not in HTML, which was the reason 
that @prefix or something along those lines proposed. There was quite 
positive progress in this regard, too. I don't know what happened to 
that progress.

But regardless, the majority of people will include metadata markup by 
installing a plug-in or module, and making a couple of choices. And if 
you put together a good ten-minute tutorial for the average developer, 
they'll have no problem with "foaf:name". Training and clarity of 
communication is much ore important than form, it always has been with 

The examples you come up with just don't justify discarding 
consideration of a capability that just started getting incorporated 
into Google search. I would say if your fellow Google developers could 
understand how this all works, there is hope for others.


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