(I'm cc:'ing 3 lists, rather warily; if the thread gets long, please
consider trimming it to just use [hidden email])
I'm involved in helping advise a new not-for-profit project that is
close in approach to the old Annotea project, looking at annotations
within pieces of Web content, and their cross-linking, threading for
discussion etc. It's now 2009, over ten years since the original Annotea
designs. The Web has changed a lot since then, but the need to annotate
it doesn't seem to have gone away.
Since then Web 2.0 has happened, and now many of the original themes of
Annotea are part of the mainstream Web developer perspective. And yet
... looking at the comments to this 2007 techcrunch survey -
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/04/10/5-ways-to-mark-up-the-web/ - I see
project after project, startup after startup, exploring this space
without any great emphasis on data exchange standards. I guess many of
them have APIs, probably a lot of them use RSS or Atom feeds. But we
certainly haven't yet to the place imagined by Annotea: an annotation
layer for the Web that allows comments, scribbles, reviews, discussions
to be freely interlinked and overlaid using open standard formats and
So I'm mailing the relevant (and pretty quiet) lists but cc:'ing
[hidden email] too to ask where folk thing this stuff is heading.
When is an annotation an annotation, versus a page that happens to be a
review, or happens to have as it's primary topic another page? For
annotations at the page level, it might be that mainstream RDF work
(linked data etc) has fulfilled some of the early promise of Annotea.
But for the "annotating parts of a page" scenario that lies at the heart
of many people's notion of annotations, there doesn't seem to be much
happening in terms of practical and widely adopted standards. Lots of
startups, experiments etc but they all seem to be islands. And since
annotation systems are only really interesting when you have enough
annotations to get decent coverage, this seems a pity.
Thoughts? Am I missing some developments? What would Annotea look like
if rebuilt for the Web of 2009? If it's in RDF, the query part would
just use SPARQL, and topic classification would be SKOS. What else? Is
there implementation experience from Annotea adopters and implementors
gathered somewhere? Is there consensus for example on the best bits of
information to keep if you want a robust reference to a piece of a
potentially evolving page? How well do modern Web design habits (CSS,
Ajax etc) interact with the overlay of 3rd party annotations? Is
or is there some hope for a cross-browser approach on the horizon?