Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Metadata Working Group releases Guidelines for Interoperability and Preservation of Metadata

A group going by the name of the "Metadata Working Group" made a major announcement at Photokina today and released a document that is designed to help developers by providing best practices on how to create, read and modify a set of core metadata values within digital images that use Exif, IPTC-IIM and XMP. The groups involved in this initiative include a number of long-standing digital imaging and metadata advocates such as Adobe Systems Inc., Apple Inc., and Microsoft Corp.; as well as a few you might not expect: Canon Inc., Nokia Corp. and Sony Corp.

The primary thrust of the Metadata Working group is to reveal issues regarding how metadata is exchanged and preserved as it moves between applications and processes (devices, platforms and services), file formats and metadata standards. This document, titled, "Guidelines for Handling Metadata" was released this morning (September 24th), and discusses the use of a small number of current metadata fields using existing standards to deal with what they feel are the key questions that most consumers have about images:

-Who is involved with this image (who took it, who owns it, who’s in it)?
-What is interesting about this image?
-Where is this image from?
-When was this image created or modified?

The goal of the Metadata Working Group is to provide best practices specifically for these nine critical data fields (Keywords, Description, Date/Time, Orientation, Rating, Copyright, Creator, Location [created], and Location [shown]), with the intent of solving interoperability issues for consumers.

Their model divides applications using metadata into three groups of "Actors": Creators, Changers and Consumers. This roughly mirrors the vision that the Stock Artists Alliance put out in their Metadata Manifesto in which they talked about Image Creators, Image Distributors and Image Users. However, the Metadata Working group paper takes this a step further and defines the roles each device or application play when interacting with metadata.

They also discuss best practices for how, when and where metadata should be changed in popular consumer still image file formats using existing industry metadata standards. Wide scale adoption of these best practices should solve many current problems that plague the photo community.

While this initial effort targets consumer still-imaging metadata, rather than those of the professional; they do plan to expand their efforts. In fact, Josh Weisberg, chairman and founder of the Metadata Working Group and director of Microsoft's Rich Media Group said that, "We've chosen to address the most common issues photographers face as we feel this will make the biggest impact for the average photographer," noting that "Down the road, we will expand our work to include other metadata issues relevant to photographers."

Details will be available from their website once that is launched.