Drupal in the formative stages of adding RDF(a) for Semantic Web
by Robert Douglass
There has been a lot of hand waving about the semantic web, RDF, and Drupal. This is good, and it is important for there to be excitement about the possibilities that this opens to us. Now the first concrete plans are being laid and the first patches are being written and evaluated. If you’ve ever wondered about this semantic web business, or if you thought microformats were a good idea, or if you’ve been secretly (or publicly) coding your own RDF tools for Drupal you’ll want to be a part of this conversation.
A lot of hard issues will have to be solved. XHTML document designers (ie web application builders and Drupal developers) are not accustomed to working with XML namespaces. The inclusion of RDFa is wholly dependent on the theme layer so it is important to build tools that handle this without further burdening Drupal themers. The basic data storage mechanisms in Drupal are all based on relational databases, not RDF, thus it will fall on tool builders and module authors to ascribe semantic meaning to data and to actively use the new tools to generate RDFa markup.
Furthermore, the addition of RDFa and supporting technologies like GRDDL introduce very new and somewhat complex workflows that greatly depart from the server->browser lifecycle of our current XHTML documents. Drupallers will have to learn about this in order to understand and utilize the potential benefits that RDFa can bring.
Here are some places to watch and participate in the coming months as Drupal makes this very important transition:
- Semantic Web Group
- The first RDFa patch
- Modules that use RDF
- RDFa primer
- GRDDL primer
- Vocabularies used by SearchMonkey