The worst part of RDF/XML

Norm continues the slagging of the XML serialization of RDF, RDF/XML.

So, since somebody’s gotta do it, I’ll put my neck on the line by saying that I really don’t have any big problems with RDF/XML.

For me, RDF/XML works because it makes the simple things simple. Consider the following document;

<Person xmlns="http://example.org/foofoo/">
  <name>Mark Smith</name>
  <age>55</age>
</Person>

IMO, if the serialization can’t support extracting the same triples as a human would intuitively expect to be there, then it’s broken, or at least not suitable for hand-authoring (which I’ve had no problems doing).

Yes, that’s simple, but I’d say it’s about 70% of what I do with RDF, and I’d expect that for many people, it’s probably at least 50% of what they do with it.

And yes, striping is a nuisance some times. And lists and collections are annoying. And don’t get me started on reification. But the simple stuff is simple.

Actually, I should come clean and say that despite my claims above about not having any problems with RDF/XML, I have had some. But you know what? The problems I’ve had are always with XML. XML is just a really sucky syntax for lots of network-centric things I do, thanks to its seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time deterministic failure model. This is what requires you (unless you want to institute transaction semantics between your app and parser, uh huh) not to do any application processing until you’ve received the final “/>”; because you never know, it might not arrive, and it’s only then that you realize “Oopsie!”, that wasn’t XML after all. Streaming? By definition, impossible. Latency-sensitive apps? Forget about it!

I’m overstating the case, of course. I use XML, a lot. It’s the default syntax that my last project used on the wide open Internet due to its pervasive recognition and support. We also used it as the default output format for our embedded systems, since producing it is cheap. But for embedded consumption, and between instances of our own software, we use Turtle.

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