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May 13, 2009

RDFa, Google

Filed under: Semantic Web,Work Related — Ivan Herman @ 8:31
Tags: , , , ,

Imagine that you have a review of a restaurant on your page. In your HTML, you show the name of the restaurant, the address and phone number, the number of users who have provided reviews, and the average rating. People can read and understand this information, but to a computer it is nothing but strings of unstructured text. With microformats or RDFa, you can label each piece of text to make it clear that it represents a certain type of data: for example, a restaurant name, an address, or a rating. This is done by providing additional HTML tags that computers understand.

No, this is not an extract of a page at W3C explaining the role of RDFa, or some academics’ paper on the role of RDF and RDFa. This is an extract of a Google page written for webmasters and explaining why adding such information to a page is useful. It is followed by:

These don’t affect the appearance of your pages, but Google and any other services that look at the HTML can use the tags to better understand your information, and display it in useful ways—for example, in search results.

This was published while I was sleeping; by the time I woke up in Brisbane twitter, mailing lists, news sites, or the blogosphere already talked about the news: RDFa is adopted by Google! Ie, this blog is hardly a prime news any more:-( But this is such a good news that I still felt compelled to write. After Yahoo’s SearchMonkey announcement last year (gosh, what a news that was, too!), the fact that social sites like SlideShare, systems like Drupal, or public thesauri sites like the Library Congress’ Subject Heading page have all adopted all RDFa, this Google announcement means that RDFa is in the mainstream now, that all the work that people have put into this technology is now paying off at last. I must admit, it is a good feeling…

Of course, lot is still to be done. The quoted Google page refers to some specific vocabularies that, I presume, will be indexed explicitly at first (reviews, people, products, and business and organizations). I would expect other vocabularies will follow in due time, developed by various communities around the globe. (As a first step, it would be great if Google adopted some of the exisiting vocabularies like SIOC, DOAP, FOAF, DC…). Developing the right vocabularies for the right communities is still a challenge that the Semantic Web community has to work on. And what would make me even happier would be to welcome Google’s developers to participate in the definition of those, together with the rest of the community, in line with the decentralized nature of vocabulary definitions.

But this is for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Today, I am just happy to have this news, and worry about the next step later…



  1. […] In ordine di segnalazione, ecco il tam tam in Rete, per farsi un’idea: -> Google Announces Support for Microformats and RDFa -> Google announces support for RDFa -> Ian Davis: Google’s RDFa a Damp Squib -> Ebiquity research group UMBC: Google support RDFa and Microformats -> Ivan Herman: RDFa, Google […]

    Pingback by RDFa ora supportato anche da Google: il Semantic Web è mainstream : Casual.info.in.a.bottle — May 13, 2009 @ 11:09

  2. Hi Ivan,

    I’ll leave the analysis of Google + RDFa elsewhere, but regarding your comment:

    “Developing the right vocabularies for the right communities is still a challenge that the Semantic Web community has to work on.”

    I couldn’t agree more. This is a critical issue and needs increased attention/investment from the Semantic Web community. However, in discussing this, please don’t forget (to mention 😉 the great work going on in the VoCamp community to address specifically this issue. More details at: http://vocamp.org/wiki/Main_Page

    Of course Google developers would be more than welcome to join Talis, Yahoo, DERI and many others (organisations and individuals alike) in this community. Perhaps they would even like to host a VoCamp at the GooglePlex? 🙂



    Comment by Tom Heath — May 13, 2009 @ 11:33

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