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Team Comment on "Representing vCard Objects in RDF" Submission

The W3C is pleased to receive the Representing vCard Objects in RDF submission edited by Renato Iannella from NICTA, and notes this submission is the product of a long-standing collective effort from the wider Semantic Web community.

This submission updates an earlier member submission, Representing vCard Objects in RDF/XML. This update is necessary as the original vCard member submission, one of the earliest vocabularies created by RDF, was found by some users to be difficult to deploy. This led to Norm Walsh and others creating an easy-to-use syntax, An ontology for vCards for the purpose of creating an easy-to-use mapping of the popular hCard microformat. However, this ontology was not given proper review or W3C status, and it was difficult to express many of the more complex vCard constructions using this language, even though in its most basic form it was deployed by applications like Yahoo! SearchMonkey. Furthermore, the existence of two distinct and conflicting specifications for expressing vCard in RDF left end-users in considerable confusion.

Therefore we congratulate Renato Iannella for unifying the previous version of Representing vCard Objects in RDF/XML with An ontology for vCards in this update to his original member submission. To ensure that developers can easily find the latest specification, the URI of the previous submission has been re-used. We are aware that this particular specification has had over a year of review in the Semantic Web Interest Group and the Social Web Incubator Group, and has gone through review in a face-to-face meeting at the European Semantic Web conference in 2009 and additional review on the "Pedantic Web" mailing list. To our knowledge, Renato Iannella has carefully addressed every comment, including many from the W3C Team.

The most difficult part of the specification was specifying these two particular issues:

  1. Whether or not a "vCard" represented either an electronic business card, or the "real-life" properties of a person. A further question is whether these properties may be applied to an organization. In common practice, these properties are generally often used directly as the properties of URIs that refer to organizations. However, as a person may have different "business cards", it is useful to mint a URI not for the person, but of the card itself and deploy the card. The current submission is neutral on this point, noting that "Resources that are vCards and the URIs that denote these vCards can also be the same URIs that denote people/orgs", so allowing both design patterns.
  2. How to deal with the contradiction that the vCard ontology used different properties for specifying whether or not a certain telephone was a mobile number or home number, but this approach ran into difficulties when explaining common cases such as when a mobile phone number is also a preferred phone number, or the creation of new type parameters. The approach given of typing parameters explicitly in vCard Type Parameters section allows one to express in an extensible manner these combinations of types. However, in order to encourage backward compatibility with the already widely deployed typed parameters of An ontology for vCards, this member submission continues to support these kinds of properties while encouraging the use of typed parameters. This approach satisfies the central shortcoming of An ontology for vCards.

This latest version of vCard in RDF relates to the following W3C Activities and Groups:

Semantic Web Interest Group
As many of the design choices were made via discussion in the Semantic Web Interest Group, in particular design choices pertinent to RDF.
Social Web Incubator Group
As an update to the vCard RDF was given a high priority in making the Semantic Web more compatible with current work in the Social Web.

Next Steps

As of today, W3C has no plans to take up recommendation-track work based on this Member Submission. We are aware that there are considerable changes in this space, including the development of vCard 4.0 by the IETF and the ongoing deployment of Portable Contacts and the Friend-of-a-Friend (FOAF) ontology. We hope that the extensible nature of RDF as used in this member submission allows these various formats and versions to interoperate, and that the the necessary updates can be made in the context of the Semantic Web Interest Group and future Working Group. We expect there may be concrete recommendations for the future standardization in the final report of the Social Web.

We encourage people interested by this work to discuss on the semantic-web@w3.org Mailing List [public archive] and the public-xg-socialweb@w3.org the Social Web Incubator Group Mailing List [public archive] .

Harry Halpin, RDB2RDF Staff Contact, Social Web W3C Fellow <hhalpin@w3.org>,
Ivan Herman, Semantic Web Activity Lead <ivan@w3.org>,
$Date: 2010/02/09 16:15:04 $