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RDFa in HTML 4

From: Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com>
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2008 13:27:18 -0400
Message-ID: <487F80F6.5080309@digitalbazaar.com>
To: RDFa Developers <public-rdf-in-xhtml-tf@w3.org>

Hey foaf:Persons,

We just had a fairly in-depth discussion[1] on this task force's stance
on RDFa in various flavors of HTML, XML, XHTML. As Shane pointed out[2],
we were only chartered to specify RDFa in XHTML 1.1. We may become a
victim of our own success if people start adopting RDFa into HTML4
without a clear set of guidelines to follow.

Most of the discussions that we have with those wanting to use RDFa in
HTML4 go something like this:

Web developer: "Can I use RDFa in HTML4?"
           Us: "Sure, there's nothing that prevents you from doing so."
Web developer: "Is the HTML4 still valid?"
           Us: "It depends on what you mean by valid. Most user agents
                should deal with it just fine."
Web developer: "I mean, will it validate."
           Us: "We currently don't have anything that can validate
                HTML4 + RDFa, but that shouldn't prevent you from using

I don't think we're paying enough attention to the real issue, which is
that some significant portion of web developers don't like generating
stuff that doesn't validate. At best they feel uneasy about doing it and
at worst they put their job at risk when doing so. Most people have
managers that have been trained to think that "It doesn't validate." is
almost as bad as "It doesn't compile."

We are a bit helpless to do anything about the W3C Validator since it's
not in our charter to specify RDFa for HTML4 and expanding our charter
is off the table (due to the way things work at the W3C - which most of
us agree, is the way things should work).

There are really only two hurdles that prevent HTML 4 + RDFa at the
moment. They are:

1. The xmlns issue must be solved for HTML 4/5. We came up with a
potential solution on the call and both Shane and Mark have more ideas
about how to address this issue. Most on the call believed it to be a
fairly trivial problem to solve. Right now we're looking at something
that looks like the following (formatted for readability):

   <div curieprefix="dcterms http://purl.org/dc/terms/
                     media http://purl.org/media#
                     audio http://purl.org/media/audio#"
        about="#a-song" typeof="audio:Recording">

2. There is no HTML4 + RDFa validator, and until we can point web
developers to a tool that validates HTML4 + RDFa, we should not
encourage them to use RDFa in HTML4. Shane also mentioned that he's been
working with some sort of validator that might make this easy on us...
presumably while he is sleeping since that seems to be the only time
that it could possibly fit into his schedule :)

Both solutions would need to be put together outside of the W3C as a
first step and then we should see if there is any way to get them
through a formal process. The goal is to enable HTML 4 + RDFa as quickly
as possible. None of us could see a good avenue to do that through the
W3C at the moment. If one presented itself to us, we'd prefer taking
that route instead.

A side effect of solving the two issues above is that we side-step the
"xmlns" argument with the WHATWG-HTML5 group and potentially increase
our chances of smoothing HTML 5 adoption of RDFa.

-- manu


Manu Sporny
President/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
blog: Bitmunk 3.0 Website Launches
Received on Thursday, 17 July 2008 17:27:57 UTC

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