SEP 20th 2007

Microsoft has taken steps in the direction of supporting Semantic Web standards such as RDF, OWL, and SPARQL. While their support is minimal and not hyped very broadly it is still nice to see the them implementing these standards in their software. I also haven't seen any evidence that they wish to formulate a proprietary brand of these standards, so I have no complaints.

Interactive Media Manager

Interactive Media Manager is Microsoft's rich, collaborative media management solution for pre-production, post-production and production environments. Without getting into too much detail, it's a digital asset management and collaboration system. A common challenge among media and entertainment companies is sharing metadata between DAM systems, business applications, and partners in the content production chain. IMM includes a powerful metadata framework to address this problem.

Interactive Media Manager

The IMM metadata framework uses RDF and OWL to describe media stored in the system. This allows companies to add nuance and intelligence to media management beyond what is possible with traditional metadata. Traditional metadata lists characteristics, but the RDF structure makes descriptive statements about resources by using OWL to define metadata terms and relationships between those terms.

The potential benefits for this include:

  • Identify complex relationships between media assets and categories
  • Improved search relevance
  • Automatic transfer of metadata properties to new assets during transcoding
  • Enhanced workflow tracking
  • Improved metadata sharing between external systems
  • Facilitates the sharing of media asset metadata between partners

IMM uses SPARQL to search media metadata stores directly.

IMM also includes a Media Annotator that allows people to make notes regarding a section of a video or an individual frame. Although they don't say, I am wondering if these annotations can be made available through RDF as well, or if they're separate from their RDF model.

Companies can customize the metadata model to add whatever information they need to support their processes or business partnerships. To simplify the manipulation and extension of the metadata model, IMM provides an SDK that allows developers to work with code-generated .NET Framework class libraries when dealing with OWL and RDF/XML messages.

Profile Manager Component in CSF 3.0

Connected Services Framework (CSF) provides common service capabilities needed to connect and manage content services and networks. The Profile Manager Component in CSF 3.0 is an RDF data store and is general nature, so you can store any information that is required by your system.

The Profile Manager persists profile information in the RDF triple format to a Microsoft SQL Server database. SPARQL is used to read profile information from Profile Manager.

A sample of the user profile vocabulary in RDF/XML can be viewed here. More information about the Profile Manager's RDF parser can be found here.

Astoria project decides against supporting RDF

In Michael Bergman's entry titled Astoria is Whistling Past the Graveyard to Irrelevance he points out that Microsoft's Astoria project has decided against including support for RDF. Michael includes this quote from the Astoria team:

The May [announcement on Astoria] included support for RDF. While we got positive comments about the fact we supported it, we didn't see any early user actually using it and we haven't seen a particular popular scenario where RDF was a must-have. So we are thinking that we may not include RDF as a format in the first release of Astoria, and focus on the other 3 formats (which are already a bunch from the development/testing perspective).

My personal take is that while I understand how RDF fits in the picture of the semantic web and related tools, the semantic web goes well beyond a particular format. The point is to have well-defined, derivable semantics from services. I believe that Astoria does this independently of the format being used. That, combined with the fact that we didn't see a strong demand for it, put RDF lower in our priority lists for formats.

At least in this particular situation it looks like Microsoft decided against keeping RDF support because of a lack of people saying they would use it, rather than them just deciding against it from the get-go.


So far we haven't seen much effort on the part of Microsoft to really get into the Semantic Web. There is some hope that they will properly support Semantic Web standards and we are at least being shown that there are teams at Microsoft that do acknowledge the usefulness of these technologies.

I'll end this with an interesting quote by Charles Young that talks a little about Microsoft's use of RDF in CSF and in general:

Is Microsoft really investing seriously in RDF? Maybe, but I don't know what the evidence is. The [Profile Manager] is part of their little-known Connected Services Framework which, to date, has been mainly targeted at Telcos and used for implementing provisioning systems. Quite how CSF fits in with Microsoft's "connected systems" strategy is a matter of some debate. I'm fairly sure that CSF isn't seen as 'mainstream' within the MS Connected Systems Division. I don't know of any other Microsoft initiatives that are using RDF, though a quick Google search suggested they may be using it somewhere inside Vista. Microsoft is not monolithic in terms of its product groups, and the fact that one group is supporting RDF and SPARQL for a straightforward profile database does not suggest a corporate commitment to RDF from Microsoft as a whole. I wouldn't get your hopes up to high on this one. Microsoft is a large company, and it would be statistically highly improbable that there aren't some RDF/SW enthusiasts within its ranks. It will also employ RDF/SW sceptics (of whom there are many). Like any other software company, I wouldn't expect MS to seriously invest in these specifications until it can see a clear business case and emerging market for the RDF-based SW.

About the author

James Simmons

It's my goal to help bring about the Semantic Web. I also like to explore related topics like natural language processing, information retrieval, and web evolution. I'm the primary author of Semantic Focus and I'm currently working on several Semantic Web projects.

Trackback URL for this entry:

Spam protection by Akismet

Comments for this entry:

No one has left a comment for this entry. Be the first!

Post a comment

  1. Spam protection by Akismet