Since its implementation in the 1990s, the internet has become a sprawling resource overflowing with information and data. One of the primary challenges with the sheer volume of information involved is coming up with methods to find the information you need. After all, information is uploaded onto global networks by organizations, companies, and individuals from around the world, all of whom may be using software and file management systems with entirely different hierarchies.
One of the first successful methods of finding a way to organize and compartmentalize all of this data was to come up with a system known as namespaces. Namespaces are a critical component of the Semantic Web, and by applying namespaces, we can establish a clear vocabulary that helps us to develop automation processes that assist in the retrieval of accurate information across the web. This article takes a look at one of the most widely known and utilized namespaces, The Dublin Core and its supposed demise. We’ll evaluate its impact on the modern landscape of the internet, and then turn to the system that seems poised to replace it, Meta Object Description Schema.
The Dublin Core
The Dublin Core has been the standard system used by software developers and web designers to assign metadata to the information and data that populates the internet. This includes images, videos, text-based documents, and, most importantly, web pages. Metadata provides all the key information someone needs to understand what a web page, image or file contains, and all of that metadata is defined by the term of the Dublin Core Standard.
So how does the Dublin Core define metadata and interact with the objects it defines? Dublin Core is an XML extension, very similar to SMIL, which is the language used to build presentations. The Dublin Core’s main function, however, is to provide a framework for metadata for documents that have been created with XML or the many other programs that depend on the language. In implementation, the Dublin Core defines terms in very basic sets such as contributor, publisher, and language. Some of those parameters are automatically set by the tools used to create them as a part of the publishing process while others, such as contributor, are defined by the user who created the object.
While the Dublin Core has served as the standard for metadata for well over a decade, innovations in web design have revealed some essential flaws in the way the system functions. In the end, one of its core values became its downfall: its simplicity. While the simplicity of Dublin Core allowed it to quickly become the standard metadata assignment tool it has also kept it from functioning well with new programming languages. The Dublin Core also depends on fairly loosely defined terms that keep it from performing its primary function, to return precisely-defined terms that can be uniformly interpreted by users and programs across the world.
Metadata Object Description Schema
The Metadata Object Description Schema, or MODS, is widely accepted throughout the programming community as the successor to the Dublin Core. MODS is also based on an XML language but features an expanded library of terms that are defined with far greater precision. The biggest advantage of MODS is that it can leverage XML terms that are nested or embedded within structures, giving it a far greater capacity to convey terms.
MODS allows designers and developers to assign many more metadata attributes to items. Attributes such as authority control and the format utilized can be conveyed, and whereas the date field in Dublin Core could be ambiguous, the MODS date field is standardized, so there is no confusion as to when a document was created or shared.
MODS even allows for extremely specific date values to be applied such as the birth and death dates of the author or creator. MODS also has the capacity to enable individuals and organizations to assign a set of values to create a profile that you can use across your institution to ensure conformity and guarantee that everyone knows which set of terms to look for when trying to locate a page or document. Many electronic file storage systems, such as eFileCabinent, have these tools included in them, so your documents conform to a specific set of values.
While the Dublin Core may be on its way out as the standard for assigning metadata, it’s important to understand that the framework it constructed still informs how we organize information today. To truly build a system that will help us streamline and automate resource retrieval across the web, both systems should be taken into account and their advantages synthesized.
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