Topic Maps and RDF

Steven R. Newcomb srn at
Wed Dec 15 08:30:16 GMT 1999

[Kent Fitch:]
> Is RDF a candidate for representing Topic Map
> type assertions about resources? 

This is a good question.  Like you, I have a hunch that it's possible
that it's possible.  If we assume it's true that topic maps can be
interchanged as RDF documents, it's also important to ask whether or
under what circumstances it would be worth the effort to use RDF.  I'd
very much like to know good technical and/or economic arguments in
favor of preferring an existing or proposed RDF-based syntax over the
hyperlinks ("extended" xlinks) already being used to interchange topic
maps.  Does anyone know any such arguments?

I attended Ora Lassila's excellent talk on RDF at XML 99, which made
the RDF phenomenon a lot clearer for me.  During the question period,
I asked from the audience whether the RDF model would be supportable
by using extended xlinks to express tuples and their arcs.  Ora said
that RDF is a set of abstract notions that exist at a higher level
than specific syntaxes.  He said that he would welcome an alternative
syntax based on xlink.

It's also interesting to note that one completely separable and
optional part of the Topic Maps architecture, called "facet link", is
an xlink whose semantic appears to be at least in some respects
indistinguishable from the tuplet-and-arc semantic carried by RDF
tuplets.  If facet links can be used to express RDF-based assertions
(and I don't yet know any reason why they can't), then there already
is an xlink-based syntax for RDF, defined by the Topic Maps standard.


Steven R. Newcomb, President, TechnoTeacher, Inc.
srn at

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