RDF in Attributes
Status Published
Year started 2004
Editors Ben Adida, Mark Birbeck
Base standards RDF
Related standards RDF Schema, OWL
Domain Semantic Web
Abbreviation RDFa
Website www.w3.org/TR/rdfa-primer/

RDFa (or Resource Description Framework in Attributes[1]) is a W3C Recommendation that adds a set of attribute-level extensions to HTML, XHTML and various XML-based document types for embedding rich metadata within Web documents. The RDF data-model mapping enables its use for embedding RDF subject-predicate-object expressions within XHTML documents. It also enables the extraction of RDF model triples by compliant user agents.

The RDFa community runs a wiki website to host tools, examples, and tutorials.[2]


RDFa was first proposed by Mark Birbeck in the form of a W3C note entitled XHTML and RDF,[3] which was then presented to the Semantic Web Interest Group[4] at the W3C's 2004 Technical Plenary.[5] Later that year the work became part of the sixth public Working Draft of XHTML 2.0.[6][7] Although it is generally assumed that RDFa was originally intended only for XHTML 2, in fact the purpose of RDFa was always to provide a way to add a metadata to any XML-based language. Indeed, one of the earliest documents bearing the RDF/A Syntax name has the sub-title A collection of attributes for layering RDF on XML languages.[8] The document was written by Mark Birbeck and Steven Pemberton, and was made available for discussion on October 11, 2004.

In April 2007 the XHTML 2 Working Group produced a module to support RDF annotation within the XHTML 1 family.[9] As an example, it included an extended version of XHTML 1.1 dubbed XHTML+RDFa 1.0. Although described as not representing an intended direction in terms of a formal markup language from the W3C, limited use of the XHTML+RDFa 1.0 DTD did subsequently appear on the public Web.[10]

October 2007 saw the first public Working Draft of a document entitled RDFa in XHTML: Syntax and Processing.[11] This superseded and expanded upon the April draft; it contained rules for creating an RDFa parser, as well as guidelines for organizations wishing to make practical use of the technology.

In October 2008 RDFa 1.0 reached recommendation status.[12]

RDFa 1.1 reached recommendation status in June 2012.[13] It differs from RDFa 1.0 in that it no longer relies on the XML-specific namespace mechanism. Therefore, it is possible to use RDFa 1.1 with non-XML document types such as HTML 4 or HTML 5. Details can be found in an appendix to HTML 5.[14]

An additional RDFa 1.1 Primer document was last updated 17 March 2015.[1] (The first public Working Draft dates back to 10 March 2006.[15])

Versions and variants

There are some main well-defined variants of the basic concepts, that are used as reference and as abbreviation to the W3C standards.


RDFa was defined in 2008 with the "RDFa in XHTML: Syntax and Processing" Recommendation.[16] Its first application was to be a module of XHTML.

The HTML applications remained, "a collection of attributes and processing rules for extending XHTML to support RDF" expanded to HTML5, are now expressed in a specialized standard, the "HTML+RDFa" (the last is "HTML+RDFa 1.1 - Support for RDFa in HTML4 and HTML5"[17]).

RDFa 1.0

The "HTML+RDFa" syntax of 2008 was also termed "RDFa 1.0", so, there are no "RDFa Core 1.0" standard. In general this 2008's RDFa 1.0 is used with the old XHTML standards (as long as RDFa 1.1 is used with XHTML5 and HTML5).

RDFa 1.1

Is the first generic (for HTML and XML) RDFa standard, now (2015) the "RDFa Core 1.1" is in the Third Edition.[18]

RDFa Lite

Is a W3C Recommendation (1.0 and 1.1) since 2009,[19] as "a minimal subset of RDFa, the Resource Description Framework in attributes, consisting of a few attributes that may be used to express machine-readable data in Web documents like HTML, SVG, and XML. While it is not a complete solution for advanced data markup tasks, it does work for most day-to-day needs and can be learned by most Web authors in a day".[20]

In 2009 the W3C was positioned[21] to retain RDFa Lite as unique and definitive standard alternative to Microdata.[22] The position was confirmed with the publication of the HTML5 Recommendation in 2014.


The essence of RDFa is to provide a set of attributes that can be used to carry metadata in an XML language (hence the 'a' in RDFa).

These attributes are:

a URI or CURIE specifying the resource the metadata is about
rel and rev
specifying a relationship and reverse-relationship with another resource, respectively
src, href and resource
specifying the partner resource
specifying a property for the content of an element or the partner resource
optional attribute that overrides the content of the element when using the property attribute
optional attribute that specifies the datatype of text specified for use with the property attribute
optional attribute that specifies the RDF type(s) of the subject or the partner resource (the resource that the metadata is about).


There are five "principles of interoperable metadata" met by RDFa.[23]

  • Publisher Independence – each site can use its own standards
  • Data Reuse – data are not duplicated. Separate XML and HTML sections are not required for the same content.
  • Self Containment – the HTML and the RDF are separated
  • Schema Modularity – the attributes are reusable

Additionally RDFa may benefit web accessibility as more information is available to assistive technology.[24]


There is a growing number of tools for better usage of RDFa vocabularies and RDFa annotation.

HTML+RDFa statistics

2013 survey pizza charts of percentual usage, [25] showing that 79% of URLs and 43% of domains use HTML+RDFa. The average 61% (the other 39% was Microformats) is the usage indicator.

The simplified approaches to semantically annotate information items in webpages were greatly encouraged by the HTML+RDFa (released in 2008) and Microformats (since ~2005) standards.

As of 2013 these standards were encoding events, contact information, products, and so on. Despite the vCard semantics (only basic items of person and organization annotations) dominance,[25] and some cloning of annotations along the same domain, the counting of webpages (URLs) and domains with annotations is an important statistical indicator for usage of semantically annotated information in the Web.

The statistics of 2017 show that usage[26] of HTML+RDFa is now less than that of Microformats.

RDFa editors

Web-based RDFa editors
There are already a few RDFa editors available online. RDFaCE (RDFa Content Editor) is a WYSIWYM editor based on TinyMCE to support RDFa content authoring. It supports manual and semi-automatic generation of RDFa with the support of annotation services such as DBpedia Spotlight, OpenCalais, Alchemy API, among others. [27] RDFaCE-Lite is a version of RDFaCE also supporting Microdata and available as a WordPress plugin. [28]
Desktop RDFa editors
AutôMeta is an environment for semi-automatic (or automatic) annotation of documents for publishing on the Web using RDFa. It also includes a RDFa extraction tool to provide the user with a view of the annotated triples. It is available in both CLI and GUI interfaces. [29]


The following is an example of adding Dublin Core metadata to an XML element in an XHTML file. Dublin Core data elements are data typically added to a book or article (title, author, subject etc.)

Moreover, RDFa allows the passages and words within a text to be associated with semantic markup:

The following is an example of a complete XHTML+RDFa 1.0 document. It uses Dublin Core and FOAF, an ontology for describing people and their relationships with other people and things:

In the example above, the document URI can be seen as representing an HTML document, but the document URI plus the "#me" string http://example.org/john-d/#me represents the actual person, as distinct from a document about them. The foaf:primaryTopic in the header tells us a URI of the person the document is about. The foaf:nick property (in the first span element) contains a nickname for this person, and the dc:creator property (in the meta element) tells us who created the document. The hyperlink to the Einstürzende Neubauten website contains rel="foaf:interest", suggesting that John Doe is interested in this band. The URI of their website is a resource.

The foaf:interest inside the second p element is referring to a book by ISBN number. The resource attribute defines a resource in a similar way to the href attribute, but without defining a hyperlink. Further into the paragraph, a span element containing an about attribute defines the book as another resource to specify metadata about. The book title and author are defined within the contents of this tag using the dc:title and dc:creator properties.

Here are the same triples when the above document is automatically converted to RDF/XML:

The above example can be expressed without XML namespaces in HTML5:

Note how the prefix foaf is still used without declaration. RDFa 1.1 automatically includes prefixes for popular vocabularies such as FOAF.[30]

The minimal [31] document is:

That is, it is recommended that all of these attributes are used: vocab, typeof, property; not only one of them.

See also

  • Microformats, a simplified approach to semantically annotate data in web pages
  • Open Graph protocol, a way to use RDFa to integrate web pages into the Facebook social graph
  • Microdata - another approach at embedding semantics in HTML using additional attributes
  • eRDF, an alternative to RDFa (now obsolete)
  • GRDDL, a way to extract (annotated) data out of XHTML and XML documents and transform it into an RDF graph
  • Schema.org, search-engine supported schemas for structured data markup on web pages that can be expressed as RDFa


  1. ^ a b "RDFa 1.1 Primer" (3rd ed.). W3C. 17 March 2015. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
  2. ^ "RDFa / Tools".
  3. ^ "XHTML and RDF W3C Note 14 February 2004". World Wide Web Consortium. 2004-02-14. Retrieved 2007-12-27.
  4. ^ "W3C Semantic Web Interest Group (SWIG)".
  5. ^ "Semantic Web Interest Group". XML.com. 2004-03-03. Retrieved 2007-12-27. External link in |publisher= (help)
  6. ^ "XHTML 2.0 W3C Working Draft 22 July 2004, 19. XHTML Metainformation Attributes Module". World Wide Web Consortium. 2004-07-22. Retrieved 2007-10-06.
  7. ^ "XML and Semantic Web W3C Standards Timeline" (PDF).
  8. ^ "RDF/A Syntax: A collection of attributes for layering RDF on XML languages". 2004-10-11. Retrieved 2009-05-14.
  9. ^ "XHTML RDFa Modules, Modules to support RDF annotation of elements, W3C Editor's Draft 2 April 2007". World Wide Web Consortium. 2007-04-02. Retrieved 2007-10-06.
  10. ^ For examples of this, see: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2007-10-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2007-10-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "RDFa in XHTML: Syntax and Processing, A collection of attributes and processing rules for extending XHTML to support RDF, W3C Working Draft 18 October 2007". World Wide Web Consortium. 2007-10-18. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
  12. ^ "RDFa in XHTML: Syntax and Processing, A collection of attributes and processing rules for extending XHTML to support RDF, W3C Recommendation 14 October 2008". World Wide Web Consortium. 2008-10-14. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
  13. ^ "RDFa Core 1.1 - Syntax and processing rules for embedding RDF through attributes". World Wide Web Consortium. 2012-06-07. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  14. ^ "HTML+RDFa 1.1 - Support for RDFa in HTML4 and HTML5". World Wide Web Consortium. 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  15. ^ "RDF/A Primer 1.0". W3C. 10 March 2006. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
  16. ^ "RDFa in XHTML: Syntax and Processing - A collection of attributes and processing rules for extending XHTML to support RDF", W3C Recommendation 14 October 2008. http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/REC-rdfa-syntax-20081014/
  17. ^ "HTML+RDFa 1.1 - Support for RDFa in HTML4 and HTML5", W3C Recommendation 22 August 2013. http://www.w3.org/TR/html-rdfa/
  18. ^ "RDFa Core 1.1 - Third Edition - Syntax and processing rules for embedding RDF through attribute", W3C Recommendation 17 March 2015. https://www.w3.org/TR/2015/REC-rdfa-core-20150317/
  19. ^ first draft 1.1 cite ~2009 as ~year of "RDFa Lite 1.0"... Please check better reference.
  20. ^ "RDFa Lite 1.1", W3C Recommendation 07 June 2012. http://www.w3.org/TR/rdfa-lite/ (second edition at 2015)
  21. ^ Final W3C position (ISSUE-76), establishing that Microdata syntax simply duplicates what RDFa Lite already does.
  22. ^ "Mythical Differences: RDFa Lite vs. Microdata - The Beautiful, Tormented Machine".
  23. ^ Building Interoperable Web Metadata
  24. ^ "RDFa – Implications for Accessibility – Standards Schmandards".
  25. ^ a b "Web Data Commons – RDFa, Microdata, and Microformat Data Sets". section 3.1, "Extraction Results from the November 2013 Common Crawl Corpus". 2013. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
  26. ^ "Web Data Commons – RDFa, Microdata, and Microformat Data Sets". section 3.1, "Extraction Results from the November 2017 Common Crawl Corpus". 2017. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  27. ^ "RDFaCE — Agile Knowledge Engineering and Semantic Web (AKSW)".
  28. ^ "RDFaCE — Agile Knowledge Engineering and Semantic Web (AKSW)".
  29. ^ "Google Code Archive - Long-term storage for Google Code Project Hosting".
  30. ^ "RDFa Core Initial Context - Vocabulary Prefixes". World Wide Web Consortium. 2012-05-27. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  31. ^ "Example of an HTML+RDFa 1.1 document" at http://www.w3.org/TR/html-rdfa/#document-conformance

External links