Metadata seven years later

Aaron Swartz talks at the Creative Commons launch party:

"Right now you can only ask a search engine one question: 'What pages have these words in them?' When pages include RDF metadata, you will be able to ask more advanced questions like 'What's the current temperature in California?'"

Aaron, thank you for being optimistic. Someone still needs to be.

Back in 1996, when RDF was more an idea than an acronym, I worked on a side-project with my friend Travis Weller. It was based on RV Guha’s MCF and hosted at the domain We demoed the first part of the software at Mactivity/Web, and I still have the slides for the presentation (click the logo to advance). It was a web server plug-in that served a site from an object database (the prototype used an embedded version of Userland’s Frontier database, but the idea was to eventually provide object-relational mappings to other more common databases). We called the web server portion Rendezvous, because it gathered pieces of content and metadata and assembled them together to serve a page. Apple likes that name too.

We also designed parts of the admin interface, which was to be the killer app to enable thousands of web designers to make metadata an integral part of their web site. You sell users on the product by providing a great interface for managing an entire site’s content, and then handle organizing the metadata behind the scenes.

Somewhere along the way, we realized the magnitude of our goals and grew disillusioned. Or maybe we just found better day jobs. Either way, the domain expired and was taken by someone else, we never shipped any software (although I still have the code on a backup disk somewhere), and the W3C’s Semantic Web effort eventually emerged with a ton of smart people trying to solve this problem.

Yesterday I noticed that the domain was available again, so we took it back. Maybe I still have some optimism left in me after all.

Manton Reece @manton