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RDF is an abbreviation for Resource Description Format, an early-ish part of XML-related technology, that was pitched as the Semantic Web, used in Trackback and RSS 1.0 (but dropped by Pingback and RSS 2.0 respectively), later rebranded as Linked Data, experimentally published in the past, but not used by any indieweb use-cases in practice.

Microformats began in part as a reaction against the verbosity of RDF and extra technical layers. RDF developers eventually took some tips from Microformats in turn, and created RDFa and JSON-LD.

Example Uses


FOAF (Friend of a Friend) is (was?) one of the more frequently used RDF vocabularies/formats, in many ways a reinvention of the vCard vocabulary (used in hCard microformats and h-card microformats2).

From this wiki (from IndieWeb community experience), FOAF was also:

The general concept of a "friend of a friend" affording some trust (at least to leave comments) is used in the Vouch protocol.


General criticisms / threads (specific criticisms could be extracted from these)

Threads: https://twitter.com/YungTseTech/status/1125641970720755712

  • "To be honest, I haven't yet seen a convincing case for the Semantic Web. Of course this could be because I'm some kind of unimaginative subliterate ... but ... (and I'm only putting this out here!) ... could it be that it doesn't solve a lot of problems people actually have?" @YungTseTech May 7, 2019

not web nor for web devs

Semantic Web is not really the web, and has poor developer experience:

  • Difficult to use and poor DX: From the AT Protocol FAQ: Why create Lexicon instead of using JSON-LD or RDF?

    RDF is intended for extremely general cases in which the systems share very little infrastructure. It’s conceptually elegant but difficult to use, often adding a lot of syntax which devs don't understand. …

    We looked very closely at using RDF but just didn't love the DX or the tooling it offered.

complexity without benefit

The additional conceptual and implementation complexity costs of learning/coding RDF do not provide equivalent (or any in practice? i.e. YAGNI) marginal benefit (certainly not to individual developers who have limited time/maintenance resources for their own websites):

  • https://unwalled.garden/docs/why-not-rdf

    … philosophy about RDF is YAGNI (You Ain’t Gonna Need It). We see RDF’s complexity as a turn-off to developers and something we should try to avoid if we can.

  • Criticism, thread (includes some JSONLD criticism too, debunking of "simplicity" claims) https://twitter.com/pfrazee/status/1136719211735277574
    • "Eh yeah but you're still encoding all that info somewhere, and it doesn't change the fact that RDF is actually a graph model with URL attributes that we're fighting to behave like a schema identifier" @pfrazee June 6, 2019

sunk cost investment

  • Criticism: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=31046470

    "These are so inaccurate that they are frequently misleading, and cannot be trusted." The Colonel later pulled me into his office and stated (rather comically): "You mean to tell me I've been paying people to draw cartoons for 3 years? We're not goddamned Disney here."

syllogisms not useful

provokes emotional ranting

For some reason, RDF and Semantic Web in general provoke strong negative emotional reactions from at least some developers:

rebranded advocacy

not consumed in practice

2019-02-10 Peter Molnar: A journey to the underworld that is RDF

I keep asking if RDFa vocabularies, such as Dublin Core, are consumed by anything on the public internet, but I keep getting answers with no actual answers

computing culdesac

Notable Writings

See Also