Chapter 1. RDF: An Introduction

The Resource Description Framework (RDF) is an extremely flexible technology, capable of addressing a wide variety of problems. Because of its enormous breadth, people often come to RDF thinking that it's one thing and find later that it's much more. One of my favorite parables is about the blind people and the elephant. If you haven't heard it, the story goes that six blind people were asked to identify what an elephant looked like from touch. One felt the tusk and thought the elephant was like a spear; another felt the trunk and thought the elephant was like a snake; another felt a leg and thought the elephant was like a tree; and so on, each basing his definition of an elephant on his own unique experiences.

RDF is very much like that elephant, and we're very much like the blind people, each grabbing at a different aspect of the specification, with our own interpretations of what it is and what it's good for. And we're discovering what the blind people discovered: not all interpretations of RDF are the same. Therein lies both the challenge of RDF as well as the value.

The main RDF specification web site is at You can access the core working group's efforts at In addition, there's an RDF Interest Group forum that you can monitor or join at