HTML4ever or: the next logical step

By Michael Hausenblas
August 26, 2008

These days it seems pretty en vogue to rant about HTML5 or rather the style it evolves, sometimes. My gut reaction to Ian Hickson's post on some fundamental assumptions was also sort of "come on".

However, I thought I'd better use your valuable time here to explain why we need structured metadata in (X)HTML.

In the beginning (and still most people likely do) there was the scraping. Obviously, there are cases and places where people feel the need to find out how much a book costs and how long the delivery takes from a plain old HTML site. And quite some people do that kind of data- repurposing, syndication or whatever for a living.

In a second phase not only the big players such as Flickr, Google, etc. understood that people would pull out the data anyway, so they started to offer (proprietary) data APIs. This may look like a good idea, but at the end of the day you find yourself learning a new API and new data formats every time you want to pull or mash some data.

Now I'm gonna tell you a little secret how to get rich and famous: learn RDF (or, if you've got some more time, have a look at the state of the Web of Data). This, and not to forget URIs are the base of a new model: publisher-push-semantics rather than consumer-pull or often consumer-guess semantics. No matter if you use microformats, GRDDL, eRDF or RDFa - the structured metadata in HTML allows us to do what we were desperately looking for ages: pulling, reusing and meshing data on the Web.

Michael, with his RDFa-Task-Force hat off ;)

Note: Ian Hickson is one of the editors of the W3C HTML 5 Working Draft and there was a question recently like: why do we need this metadata stuff or so ... don't quite remember the details. This post is an attempt to answer that question.

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