New RDF Working Group, RDF/JSON, RDF API…

After long discussions the call for votes on a new RDF Working Group has been sent to W3C members; the goal is to set up a new W3C Working Group taking care of some technical issues around RDF. It was a long process, involving lots of community discussions, a W3C Workshop, and a public questionnaire. Beyond the charter details that was the result of this discussion, I found the process itself interesting and encouraging: the wide participation or people showed the passion of a large community that really cares about this technology. That there were disagreements is normal, but the fact that RDF, and the Semantic Web in general, is important binds all these people together. Many of those who were around when the previous RDF Recommendation was published back in 2004 were among the participants of the discussions but, also, many many new faces came in who joined the ranks of the Semantic Web community since then. And that is really great to see.

One of the issues that sparkled quite some discussions, also in the last few weeks, is the structure, the role, and indeed even the necessity of a JSON serialization of RDF and, closely related to that, of a possible standard RDF API aimed primarily at Web Application developers. Let me just refer to the recent blogs of Jeni, Nathan or Leigh, as well as the numeruous commenters either on the blog sites themselves or on Twitter. And these are only the discussions in the past few weeks; many more have expressed their opinion over the months. My apologies not to list them all here. These are the types of discussions that keep this technology exciting! These comments also led to discussions on what to put into the RDF Working Group charter. After some debates, we decided on two steps.

First, the JSON serialization of RDF is part of the proposed RDF Working Group’s charter. There is clearly a community that demands this: witness, for example, the high score of the questionnaire results on this question. There is a time-to-market issue here, and the RDF Working Group is already ready to go (provided of course that the W3C members accept it). So we have decided to keep this item in to move things forward more quickly.

But what about the API? Well, it may not be widely known in the community yet, but the RDFa Working Group has already worked on something akin to that. Although the original charter of that group referred to an RDFa API only, it has become clear in the course of the group’s work that an RDFa API would necessitate a more general RDF API layer underneath. The first draft of that document already includes the seeds of a more generic API, although the document will have to undergo significant changes in the weeks, and indeed days to come to make this structure much clearer. Although there is no final decision yet, the current thinking is to possibly propose an extenstion of this group’s charter to generalize the work towards a full blown RDF API (that would have an RDFa API layer on top). In other words, such a newly chartered group would take the issue of an RDF API on board.

Obviously, if such a separate RDF API Working Group comes around (and that should be decided early in the New Year), it will have to set up a very close cooperation with the RDF Working Group on the subject of JSON serialization. Given the passion of everybody involved, I have no doubt that such cooperation will work out well. But both groups will need the participation of all those who care about this.

So… watch this space. There is more to come!

About Ivan Herman

Ivan Herman is the leader of the Digital Publishing Activity at W3C. For more details, see http://www.w3.org/People/Ivan/

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