What is Metadata?
By Stephen Bucaro
If you were to open a word document or a webpage in a text editor, near the beginning of the
formatting codes you would see the text "Microsoft Word-Document MSWordDoc Word.Document.8"
This text would not be visible in the document because it is not part of the document's
contents, it is information about the document's contents. In this case, which
application the document was created with.
If you were to open an image in a text editor, near the beginning of the image color codes
you might see some text like "JFIF Ducky Adobe". This text would not appear in the image
because it is not part of the image, it is information about the image's data format.
These bits of information about data are called metadata, or "data about data".
Metadata can provide information about data such as:
• Application used to create the data
• Title of the data
• Author of the data
• Publisher of the data
• Country where data was created
• Format or standard used for the data
• Date and time data was created
• Date and time of last modifcation
And much more possible data about the data. If you don't believe me, open Windows File
Manager and right-click in the windows column header. A dialog box will appear listing
probably hundreds of different column headers (or types of metadata) you can apply to the files.
The most commonly used metadata on the Internet are meta tags. Meta tags are similar
to html tags except that they are entered into the head section of the webpage and
they don't directly control the layout of the webpage. Instead they provide information
about the document. Meta tags can provide information about data such as:
That last one, Robots, tells search engines how to handle the data, for example whether
to cache it or not. Shown below is an example of a meta Description tag, which is a tag no
webpage should go without.
<meta name="Description" content="Definition, description, and examples of metadata." />