The Semantic WinFS

Steve is mulling over the potential reasons for the WinFS delay. His general thought is that writing a new metadata filesystem is hard because we need canonical schemas for every piece of metadata that can exist, both now and in the future. I don’t think things need be quite that bad.

Obviously, we can’t see into the future, so that’s not going to happen any time soon. Instead, people will simply release metadata. Bad metdata. Good metdata. Incompatible metadata. Heck, they’re already doing it without Microsoft’s filesystem as a catalyst. Rather than a Schema Fairy, we need a standard method for generalized structuring of metadata coupled with a language for semantic translation. The good people of the world can release all the metadata they want, and when critical mass has been reached, somebody will create a translation between the two. If only we had some knight in shining armor to rescue us!

Have you ever heard those Trojan commericals where the Trojan Man rides up on his horse and saves the, um, date? Well, imagine that same commercial, except that the horse is the W3C, the Trojan Man is Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and instead of free prophylactics he’s handing out RDF and OWL.

Right. Ok. Sorry for that image.

Anyway, despite some of the minor problems I have with RDF, the point is that these standards provide potent solutions to the problems of metadata hell. In the uber-connected future, powered by desktop search, the semantic web includes your filesystem, with appropriate access controls, of course.

So don’t despair, Steve. Smart people are solving these problems. Which makes me wonder what the real delay for WinFS is. After all, it takes them at least three versions to get it right, so they’d be better off starting now.