The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative was organized with the main goal of creating specific metadata rules that support cross-domain resource discovery on the internet. While this was their main goal, there were several other focuses, including meeting all metadata needs with a single metadata architecture. Before understanding this initiative, you must first understand the background of the Dublin Core Schema.


The Dublin Core Schema

The Dublin Core Schema, otherwise known as DCS, is a set of vocabulary terms used to describe a wide variety of web resources, like images, videos, and websites, as well as physical resources like CDs, books, and art. There were originally 15 metadata terms, now referred to as classic, and are known as the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set. They’re endorsed in several standards documents, including IETF RFC 5013, NISO Standard Z39.85, and ISO Standard 15836-2009.

Dublin Core Metadata can be used for a wide range of purposes, including simple resource descriptions, providing interoperability to metadata vocabularies included in the Linked Data Cloud, and combining vocabularies of different metadata standards.


The Background of Dublin Core

Dublin is a reference to Dublin, Ohio, where the schema was originally brought to a 1995 invitational metadata workshop. Core refers to the fact that they’re attempting to create metadata that’s both broad and generic, that can be used to describe many different resources. The Dublin Core was established and continue to be maintained by an international group of professionals in many disciplines, including library science, text encoding, computer science, and museums.

By 2000 the Dublin Core had changed focus to work on application profiles, which are the idea that records of metadata would use Dublin Core along with other specific vocabularies to meet their own specific requirements for implementation. At that time, the group was working on a generic data model for metadata called RDF, short for Resource Description Framework. Dublin Core became one of the more popular vocabularies to be used in conjunction with RDF.


The Purpose of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative

The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) was created to provide an open form for the purpose of developing a series of interoperable online metadata standards. They cover a wide range of purposes and numerous business models. The activities of DCMI include global conferences, working groups driven by consensus, workshops, educational efforts designed to encourage acceptance of metadata standards, and standards liaisons.

At the moment, any change made to the Dublin Core Standard is first reviewed by the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative Usage Board within the context of their Namespace Policy. It describes exactly how terms will be assigned and further sets limits on the amount each label, definition, and usage comment can be changed.


The Levels of the Standards

Initially, the Dublin Core had 2 levels: Simple and Qualified. There were 15 elements in Simple Dublin Core, while Qualified Dublin Core had 18 total—the same 15 in Simple plus RightsHolder, Audience, and Provenance. Qualified Dublin Core also had an additional group of element refinements, which are sometimes referred to as qualifiers. Their purpose was to refine the semantic of the elements if doing so would be helpful in resource discovery.

These 2 different groups were incorporated into DCMI Metadata Terms as a single set of terms in 2012. That single set uses the Resource Description Framework described above. Since the definition of these terms frequently includes domains and ranges, it’s not always compatible with pre-RED definitions, like those that were used for the original 15 Dublin Core elements.


Understanding How Syntax Affects Dublin Core

The syntax decisions that affect Dublin Core metadata are dependent on numerous variables, and it’s rare that a one-size-fits all application is applied. As users consider the right syntax, they first note that Dublin Core semantics and concepts are both created to be independent of syntax and are applicable in many contexts—assuming the metadata is created in a suitable way to be interpreted by both machines and people.

There is a reference model though: The Dublin Core Abstract Model. Through it, guidelines for Dublin Core encoding can be compared, in a situation that is not dependent on a specific encoding syntax. These models make it possible for those implementing them to better understand the types of descriptions they’re encoding, and makes it possible to develop even better mapping and translation between various syntax.


A Few Sample Applications

To better understand Dublin Core, consider some of the popular applications that utilize it. They include:

  • OMF (Open-Source Metadata Framework)
  • Rarian
  • GNOME desktop
  • PBCore
  • SimpleDL
  • EPUB e-book format
  • eXo Platform


The Importance of Dublin Core

So how does this relate to file repository and document storage? In order for programs to be compatible with one another, and in order for various wireless devices to seamlessly work with the same documents, a common language must be used. No matter which file manager your organization uses, you can count on the fact that it benefits from standards like Dublin Core.