Metadata revival?

Metadata is a big thing with archivists and other people concerned with context, but I must admit that in all my professional years, I have never worked on a web project which actually used the Dublin Core Metadata set. The most probable reason that people don’t seem to bother much about metadata – at least in a standardized form – is that popular search engines don’t seem to take them into account. Or at least they didn’t until recently.

Let’s have a look at a (very!) brief history of search result designs:

Search engines I rememer from my early web experience returned results looking somewhat like this (our government portal hasn’t made much progress since):

Search result for passport on

Then up comes Google and introduces a design which has become pretty much standard:

Google Search for \

More recently, both Google and Yahoo have started introducing structured search results:

Yahoo Search Gallery, Country Profile Armenia

Search results are also increasingly shown in clusters based mainly on format (text in general, news, entries from encyclopedias; images, video etc.):

Yahoo India \

So adding metadata in some kind of standardized form does seem to be a recent trend for

  • clustering search results and
  • displaying search results.

Metadata provided by the creators of web sites are used for these displays. However, these metadata are explicitly not used for search algorithms, as an article on Yahoo and the Future of Search reports. Metadata provided by the creators tends to bias the outcome, and the analysis of broader text corpus by powerful search engines provides more signifcant results than metadata out of context.

Still, the increased use of metadata are pointing to interesting directions:

  • Search results are becoming more context-sensitive. Metadata help the user to choose the appropriate context, e.g. for disambiguation or clarification of a query. Search interfaces are taking the iterative nature of search into account and getting closer to the process of questions and answers users require to clarify their needs.
  • Possible actions after having found the desired content are beginning to be transferred to the search sites (search engines becoming portals may – or may not – be part of the development). Users can view details, maps or reviews, check opening hours, buy tickets or conduct site-search without having to leave the search results page. This is enabled by a deeper integration of applications into results.

Google Search for NASA

Site-search from search results page


2 Responses to “Metadata revival?”

  1. 1 uohaa June 9, 2008 at 4:48

    Great Information blog ! Thank you for keeping up the good work. I look forward to returning to your blog, and learning more from you !

  2. 2 site October 15, 2014 at 20:47

    Znaleźć dzisiaj faktycznie dobrego bloga to
    rzadkość, dlatego cieszę się, że tu trafiłem

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