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

Shelley Powers shelleyp at burningbird.net
Fri May 15 04:58:03 PDT 2009

Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
> On May 14, 2009, at 1:30 PM, Shelley Powers wrote:
>> So, if I'm pushing for RDFa, it's not because I want to "win". It's 
>> because I have things I want to do now, and I would like to make sure 
>> have a reasonable chance of working a couple of years in the future. 
>> And yeah, once SVG is in HTML5, and RDFa can work with HTML5, maybe I 
>> wouldn't mind giving old HTML a try again. Lord knows I'd like to 
>> user ampersands again.
> It sounds like your argument comes down to this: you have personally 
> invested in RDFa, therefore having a competing technology is bad, 
> regardless of the technical merits. I don't mean to parody here - I am 
> somewhat sympathetic to this line of argument. Often pragmatic 
> concerns mean that an incremental improvement just isn't worth the 
> cost of switching (for example HTML vs. XHTML). My personally judgment 
> is that we're not past the point of no return on data embedding. 
> There's microformats, RDFa, and then dozens of other serializations of 
> RDF (some of which you cited). This doesn't seem like a space on the 
> verge of picking a single winner, and the players seem willing to 
> experiment with different options.
There are not dozens of other serializations of RDF.

The point I was trying to make is, I'd rather put my time into something 
that exists now, than have to watch the wheel re-invented. I'd rather 
see semantic metadata become a reality. I'm glad that you personally 
feel that companies will be just peachy keen on having to support 
multiple parsers to get the same data.

On the HTML WG side, I will never support microdata, because no case has 
been made for its existence.
>>>> The point is, people in the real world have to use this stuff. It 
>>>> helps them if they have one, generally agreed on approach. As it 
>>>> is, folks have to contend with both RDFa and microformats, but at 
>>>> least we know these have different purposes.
>>> From my cursory study, I think microdata could subsume many of the 
>>> use cases of both microformats and RDFa. It seems to me that it 
>>> avoids much of what microformats advocates find objectionable, and 
>>> provides a good basis for new microformats; but at the same time it 
>>> seems it can represent a full RDF data model. Thus, I think we have 
>>> the potential to get one solution that works for everyone.
>>> I'm not 100% sure microdata can really achieve this, but I think 
>>> making the attempt is a positive step.
>> It can't, don't you see?
>> Microdata will only work in HTML5/XHTML5. XHTML 1.1 and yes, 2.0 will 
>> be around for years, decades. In addition, XHTML5 already supports RDFa.
> Supporting XHTML 1.1 has about 0.00000000001% as much value as 
> supporting  text/html. XHTML 2.0 is completely irrelevant to the Web, 
> and looks on track to remain so. So I don't find this point very 
> persuasive.
I don't think you'll find that the world is breathlessly waiting for 
HTML5. I think you'll find that XHTML 1.1 will have wider use than HTML5 
for the next decade. If not longer. I wouldn't count out XHTML 2.0, 
either.  And in a decade, a lot can change.

>> Why you think something completely brand new, no vendor support, 
>> drummed up in a few hours or a day or so is more robust, and a better 
>> option than a mature spec in wide use, well frankly boggles my mind.
> I haven't evaluated it enough to know for sure (as I said). I do think 
> avoiding CURIEs is extremely valuable from the point of view of sane 
> text/html semantics and ease of authoring; and RDF experts seem to 
> think it works fine for representing RDF data models. So tentatively, 
> I don't see any gaping holes. If you see a technical problem, and not 
> just potential competition for the technology you've invested in, then 
> you should definitely cite it.
I don't think CURIEs are that difficult, nor impossible no matter the 
arguments that Henri brings out.
>> I am impressed with your belief in HTML5.
>> But
>>> One other detail that it seems not many people have picked up on yet 
>>> is that microdata proposes a DOM API to extract microdata-based info 
>>> from a live document on the client side. In my opinion this is huge 
>>> and has the potential to greatly increase author interest in 
>>> semantic markup.
>> Not really. Can do this now with RDFa in XHTML. And I don't need any 
>> new DOM to do it.
>> The power of semantic markup isn't really seen until you take that 
>> markup data _outside_ the document. And merge that data with data 
>> from other documents. Google rich snippets. Yahoo searchmonkey. Heck, 
>> even an application that manages the data from different subsites of 
>> one domain.
> I respectfully disagree. An API to do things client-side that doesn't 
> require an external library is extremely powerful, because it lets 
> content authors easily make use of the very same semantic markup that 
> they are vending for third parties, so they have more incentive to use 
> it and get it right.
Sure, we'll have to disagree on this one.
>>> Now, it may be that microdata will ultimately fail, either because 
>>> it is outcompeted by RDFa, or because not enough people care about 
>>> semantic markup, or whatever. But at least for now, I don't see a 
>>> reason to strangle it in the cradle.
>> Outcompeted...wow, what a way to think of it. Sorry, but competition 
>> has no place in spec work.
> With due respect, you're the one who brought competition into this 
> discussion by saying there can only be one winner. I don't really 
> think that's true, in this case.
OK, fine.

Thanks for the discussion.


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