JSON-LD Guiding Principles, First Public Working Draft

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Coming to consensus is difficult in any working group, and doubly so when the working group spans a broad cross-section of the web community. Everyone brings their own unique set of experiences, skills and desires for the work, but at the end of the process, there can be only one specification.  In order to provide a framework in which to manage the expectations of both participants and other stakeholders, the JSON-LD WG started out by establishing a set of guiding principles.  These principles do not constrain decisions, but provide a set of core aims and established consensus to reference during difficult discussions.  The principles are lights to lead us back out of the darkness of never-ending debate towards a consistent and appropriately scoped set of specifications. A set of specifications that have just been published as First Public Working Drafts.

These principles start with the uncontroversial "Stay on target!", meaning to stay focused on the overall mission of the group to ensure the ease of creation and consumption of linked data using the JSON format by the widest possible set of developers. We note that the target audience is software developers generally, not necessarily browser-based applications.

To keep the work grounded, requiring use cases with actual data, that have support from at least two organizations (W3C members or otherwise) was also decided as important principles to keep in mind. The use cases are intended to be supporting evidence for the practicality and likely adoption of a proposed feature, not a heavyweight requirements analysis process.

Adoption of specifications is always a concern, and to maximize the likelihood of uptake, we have adopted several principles around simplicity, usability and preferring phased or incremental solutions. To encourage experimentation and to try and reduce the chances of needing a breaking change in the future, we have adopted a principle of defining only what is conforming to the specification, and leaving all other functionality open. Extensions are welcome, they are just not official or interoperable.

Finally, and somewhat controversially, we adopted the principle that new features should be compatible with the RDF Data Model. While there are existing features that cannot be expressed in RDF that are possible in JSON-LD, we do not intend to increase this separation between the specifications and hope to close it as much as possible.

Using these guidelines, the working group has gotten off to a very productive start and came to very quick consensus around whether or not many features suggested to the JSON-LD Community Group were in scope for the work or not, including approving the much requested lists-of-lists functionality. This will allow JSON arrays to directly include JSON arrays as items in JSON-LD 1.1, enabling a complete semantic mapping for JSON structures such as GeoJSON, and full round-tripping through RDF. The publication of the FPWD documents is a testimony to the efforts of the Working Group, and especially those of Gregg Kellogg as editor.

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