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Re: Shut down the RDFa/Microdata Task Force initiative

From: Harry Halpin <hhalpin@ibiblio.org>
Date: Fri, 12 Aug 2011 19:43:13 -0400
Message-ID: <CAE1ny+70bjLF_q0gMF8smWWTd0PtXgku8SLDdJauqYGWUH6UtQ@mail.gmail.com>
To: Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com>
Cc: W3C TAG <www-tag@w3.org>
On Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 11:28 AM, Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com> wrote:
> Jonathan Rees and I had an interesting conversation yesterday about the
> joint RDFa/Microdata task force. The rest of this e-mail is my personal
> opinion and isn't an official position of any W3C Working Group or the
> WHAT WG.

So the official position of the RDF WG is still to do taskforce, correct?

There is of course "uncertainty" in the air, as the market is still
deciding which of the three emerging standards to use, two of which
are W3C specs.  IMHO and personal opinion, having a single one
recommended a standards body might help - finishing both RDFa and
microformats as official W3C Recs without trying to figure out a
single way forward will have no effect on the market rather than
continue the present uncertainty. How precisely would stamping *two*
as Recs help? If W3C had to chose *one*, why would it chose RDFa over
microdata?

My initial and personal reaction is that if microdata is not going to
change (likely, minus dropping of RDF mapping algorithm), then the
majority if not all of changes for compatibility will have to be on
the side of RDFa - it still seems inherently to do a disservice to Web
developers and the users of the Web to have two (three if you count
microformats, which I would) divergent ways of putting data - say
contact info - into a web-page. It seems kinda counter-intuitive to
have the datamodel (RDF, JSON, etc.) determine the surface syntax for
embedding structured data in web-pages - developers probably will want
to use a multiple of programming languages and datamodels.
Supersetting the syntax does make sense, with that probably based on
empirical stats based on usage of currently used syntax on the webb
rather than with a  particular bias to previous or new work.

     cheers,
        harry


>
> TL;DR
>
> The RDFa/Microdata Task Force will ultimately be ineffective, don't do it.
>
> -----
>
> Here's what has happened to this point:
>
> The W3C TAG sent a note raising concern about the publication of two
> specifications for metadata in HTML that overlap in a large number of
> the use cases[1]. The concern was around creating confusion in the Web
> developer community because there was no clear distinction on when you
> should use Microdata and when you should use RDFa, as both technologies
> seem do effectively the same thing.
>
> I then took some time to explain the differences between RDFa,
> Microdata, and Microformats[2].
>
> HTML WG responded to the note by creating bugs and then closing those
> bugs because the W3C TAG Note had nothing actionable in it. The RDF Web
> Apps WG believes that there is a problem, but that nothing actionable
> has been produced by the TAG. I realize that it is the job of the
> RDFa/Microdata Task Force to produce something actionable, but as I'll
> explain in the rest of this e-mail - I don't think anything will come of it.
>
> I believe that even if the RDFa/Microdata Task Force comes to a
> consensus on a unified way forward, that the actionable items will be
> ignored by the editor of the Microdata specification. I say this knowing
> that I had previously said that I thought that the editor of the
> Microdata specification would be interested in a RDFa/Microdata
> compromise. I have yet to confirm this belief, but of the several
> discussions I have had with the Microdata group, this line seems to
> summarize the Microdata position quite well:
>
> "I don't think there are going to be strong enough incentives for
> compromise here.  The W3C can't exert much pressure on RDFa because it
> has too much entrenched support, and can't exert much pressure on
> microdata because *the microdata people would be happy to tell the W3C
> to drop dead and only publish at the WHATWG.*"[3]
>
> At the end of the day, that last statement is what really matters. The
> W3C, nor the HTML WG, has any control over what happens with the
> Microdata specification. The group that works on RDFa would be happy to
> compromise as long as a unified approach that supports all of the use
> cases emerges. The group that works on Microdata fears that a compromise
> would add complexity to Microdata and are thus unwilling to compromise.
> Therefore, regardless of what the joint RDFa/Microdata Task Force finds,
> there will be two specifications at the end of the day - one compromised
> RDFa specification and a Microdata specification published by the WHAT WG.
>
> When we first discussed the RDFa/Microdata Task Force, I urged the W3C
> to create the Task Force as quickly as possible[4]. That was over a
> month ago and there has been no word on a plan forward since then. I
> realize that there are active discussions happening between a number of
> involved parties, but that discussion isn't public and the continued
> silence is being perceived as uncertainty, leading to a lack of
> confidence in RDFa.
>
> For example, because of the uncertainty of the RDFa/Microdata Task
> Force's effect on the RDFa specifications, the EPUB Working Group has
> decided to pull RDFa support in the final hour and instead implement
> their own document metadata standard[5]. There are other chilling
> effects that I've observed over the last month - many people being
> uncertain about the future of both RDFa and Microdata. The only thing
> that is being harmed right now is RDFa adoption.
>
> Before Google's schema.org announcement, there was no major adoption of
> Microdata markup. After the schema.org announcement, coupled with the
> TAG Note, an air of uncertainty was created. Those that were in the
> process of deploying RDFa - stopped. Those that had deployed RDFa had to
> defend their position. Those that were uncertain, bet on Google and the
> browser vendors support of Microdata and seem to be deploying Microdata.
> So, the only initiative that the uncertainty is harming is RDFa. The
> group that works on RDFa cannot continue to let this happen, and will
> most certainly reject the W3C TAG Note as well - nothing actionable, too
> late to do anything about it now.
>
> In hindsight, the W3C TAG should have raised this issue during the FPWDs
> of HTML5+RDFa and HTML5+Microdata - which happened almost 2 years ago[6].
>
> I realize that this approach seems to reward a blatant end-run around
> the W3C standardization process by the Microdata editor. That's one way
> to look at it. The other way to look at it is that nobody has proven to
> be very good at predicting how certain Web technologies will be used and
> therefore the only way this could possibly play out is for both
> solutions to compete in the market. This "competition" may be unfairly
> affected by companies that hold a dominant position in the search
> market, like Google and Microsoft. Perhaps convincing them that they
> should let Web developers decide on their preferred syntax and
> vocabularies would be a better use of the W3C's time than trying to get
> the editor of the Microdata specification to compromise.
>
> This may be a bitter pill for W3C to swallow, but I don't think it can
> reasonably expect to have any sort of unification effect on the
> Microdata specification.
>
> The RDF Web Apps Working Group, who is also working on the RDFa 1.1
> specifications, has no choice but to continue and finish the RDFa 1.1
> work and publish it as an official W3C specification. We have made some
> more changes based on feedback from the WHAT WG, TAG and Microdata
> groups. So, we did try to change a few more things to make the spec
> better, but we can't wait around for the RDFa/Microdata task force
> because it is taking too long, causing a chilling effect on RDFa, and
> will not result in a different outcome from what we have currently.
>
> -- manu
>
> [1] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2011Jun/0366.html
> [2] http://manu.sporny.org/2011/uber-comparison-rdfa-md-uf/
> [3] http://krijnhoetmer.nl/irc-logs/whatwg/20110712#l-274
> [4] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-tag/2011Jul/0018.html
> [5] http://code.google.com/p/epub-revision/wiki/Telcon20110810#Minutes
> [6]
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-rdf-in-xhtml-tf/2009Oct/0006.html
>
> --
> Manu Sporny (skype: msporny, twitter: manusporny)
> President/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
> blog: PaySwarm Developer Tools and Demo Released
> http://digitalbazaar.com/2011/05/05/payswarm-sandbox/
>
>
Received on Friday, 12 August 2011 23:43:53 GMT

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