Why Not a New Format?

Thinking about what is keeping RDF from wider adoption, I keep coming back to the fact that the serialization is, well, too complex. Why hasn't anyone stepped up to propose a XML syntax that plays well with the thousands of XML tools out there? Let the XML folk say, "I can for the simple syntax, I stayed for the powerful model."

The RDF people out there always chant, "It's the model, stupid!" Yes, indeed, and what a simple, powerful, and scalable model it is. It's certainly why people latch onto RDF. The model is RDF's selling point.

However, to get it adopted, it's the serialization that must be refactored. People are used to "Right click, view source", and the only way that will work in the semantic web is if the XML for RDF is simple and consistent and predictable. The fact that the same RDF model can be serialized into numerous different, yet semantically equivalent, is enough to drive anyone away. This is a serious bug with RDF and should be fixed.

The fact that I can't write an XSLT script for RDF/XML boggles my mind. There can no longer be a "RDF or XML" debate. That argument exists because XML proponents think in terms of tags and documents and schemas and DTDs. RDF/XML does not play in that world, and it is holding back RDF as a model.

Some might argue that RDF as model is the important part, not necessarily the syntax. "It's just computers talking to each other anyway" is a common cry. This argument forgets that the web took off because each and every user was able to see the source of the web page they were looking at. It was easy to cut and paste our way to mass adoption. Being able to look at a syntax played a major part in the success of the web. RDF needs this equivalent feature.

So my question is simply, why is no one at the W3C working on this right now? The next version of RDF needs to include a working serialization in XML that fixes the current bugs:

  • simple XML

  • consistent

  • validatable against a schema

  • predictable output of model

Maybe the better question is, how can I help? Is this on the W3C's plate?

Please, W3C, create a standard RDF serialization that elevates RDF as a first class citizen of XML. Everyone else has a schema, why can't we?

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