What Is Metadata: Definition, Examples, and Types
Metadata is often referred to data that describes other data. It is structured reference data that allows you to identify and sort the attributes of the information it describes. John W. Warren refers to metadata in Zen, and the Art of Metadata Maintenance as “both a universe” and “both DNA.”
Meta is a prefix that, in most information technology usages, means “an underlining definition or description.” Metadata is a summary of basic data that can be used to make it easier for users to locate, reuse, and use particular instances of data.
Some basic metadata for document files includes author, date created, modified, and file size. It is much easier to find a specific document if you can search for it (or any other elements).
Metadata is also used in document files.
- computer files
- relational databases
- audio files
- web pages
Metadata can be very important for web pages. Metadata can include descriptions of page contents and keywords that are linked to them. These metadata are often displayed in search results from search engines. This means that their accuracy and details can influence whether or not a person decides to visit a website. This information is often expressed as meta tags.
Meta tags are used by search engines to determine a page’s relevancy. The key element in determining a page’s position in a search was meta tags until the late 1990s. The increase in search engine optimization (SEO) towards the end of the 1990s led to many websites keyword stuffing their metadata to trick search engines and make their websites appear more relevant than others.
Although meta tags are no longer used by search engines to index pages, they have been reduced in importance. Many search engines try to stop web pages from being able to deceive their system. They frequently change their criteria for ranking, with Google being well-known for changing its ranking algorithm.
You can create metadata manually or through automated information processing. Manual creation tends to be more precise and allows the user to enter any information that they consider relevant or would help describe the file. Automated metadata creation can be much more elementary, Usually only displays information like file size and file extension. also shows who created the file.
Also read: Why You Need to Perform a Data Quality Audit
Metadata use cases
Metadata is created whenever a document, file, or other information asset is modified, deleted, or both. Precise metadata can help extend the life of data and allow users to find new ways to use it.
Metadata organize data objects using terms that are associated with them. It allows objects that are not related to each other to be identified and paired together to optimize the use of data assets. Search engines and browsers decide which web content they display by reading the metadata tags that are associated with documents.
Metadata is written in a way that can be understood by both computers and humans. This standardization helps to improve interoperability between different applications and information systems.
Digital publishing, engineering, finance, healthcare, and manufacturing companies use metadata to gain insights into how to improve products and upgrade processes. For example, streaming content providers automate the management of intellectual property metadata so it can be stored in a variety of applications so that copyright holders are protected and music and videos are accessible to authenticated users.
The maturation of AI technologies is helping to ease the burden of managing metadata. It automates previously manual processes to catalog and tag information assets.
Origins and history of metadata
Jack E. Myers, the founder of Metadata Information Partners (now The Metadata Company), claims to have coined the term in 1969. Myers filed a trademark in 1986 for the unhyphenated term “metadata”. However, the term is still used in academic papers dating back to Myers’ claim.
An academic paper was published in 1967. A professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, David Griffel and Stuart McIntosh defined metadata as “a record of… “of the data records” are created when bibliographic data on a topic is collected from different sources. Researchers concluded that a meta-linguistic approach, or “metalanguage,” was necessary to allow a computer system interpret this data in its context and other relevant data. McIntosh and Griffel, however, treated “meta”, unlike Myers. They used it as a prefix for “data”.
Philip R. Bagley, a computer science major, began work on his dissertation in 1964. He argued that attempts to make composite data elements ultimately depend on the ability to “associate explicitly” with another data element. This “we might call a “metadata element”. His thesis was rejected. However, Bagley’s work including the reference to metadata was published in a report that was issued under contract with the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research. It was published in January 1969.
Types of metadata and examples
Metadata can be categorized according to its function in information management.
- Administrative metadata allows administrators and users to set data access restrictions and user permissions. It provides information about the maintenance and management requirements of data resources. Administrative metadata is often used to support ongoing research. It includes information such as file size, type, and date of creation.
- Descriptive metadata identifies particular characteristics of a piece of data such as keywords, bibliographic data, song titles, volume numbers, etc.
- Legal metadata contains information about creative licensing such as copyrights and licensing.
- Preservation metadata guides data items to be placed within a hierarchical sequence or framework.
- Process metadata describes the procedures used to collect, analyze and deal with statistical data. Another term for process metadata is statistical metadata.
- Provenance metadata also known as Data lineage tracks the history and movement of data throughout an organization. To verify that data is correct or ensure validity, original documents are often paired with metadata. In data governance, it is standard practice to check the provenance.
- Reference metadata refers to information that describes statistical content’s quality.
- Statistical metadata is data that allows users to correctly interpret and use statistics from reports, surveys, and compendiums.
- Structural metadata shows how the different elements of a compound object are assembled. Digital media content often uses structural metadata. For example, it describes how pages should be organized in audiobooks to form chapters, or how chapters should be organized in order to form volumes. The term technical metadata is most commonly associated with digital library items.
- Use metadata data is sorted and analyzed each time a user tries to access it. Analyzing the use of metadata allows businesses to identify trends in customer behavior so they can adapt their products and/or services more easily to their customers’ needs.
Also read: Data Discovery: What It Is, Uses and Tools
How to effectively use metadata
Data growth is at an accelerated pace, which has led to a renewed interest in metadata and the business value it can bring. There are many data structures that can be used to create opportunities and challenges.
Metadata Management is an organizational framework that allows you to harmonize different data sets across multiple systems. It provides an organizational consensus for information to be described, often breaking down into operational and technical data.
Companies use metadata management to extract older data from the system and create a taxonomy to classify data according to its business value. This component is a central or catalog database that acts as a metadata repository; also known as a data dictionary.
Metadata management strategies are used for data classification, improving data analytics, and developing a data governance strategy. They also establish an audit trail to ensure regulatory compliance.
At its core, Metadata management is about allowing people to identify attributes of a piece of data via a web-based interface. An attribute could be the file’s author, name, customer ID, etc. So the person who requests the document can see and understand all the attributes and enterprise systems it is located in, as well as the reasons they were created.
Beginning November 2020, Alation, ASG, Alex Solutions Collibra, Erwin, IBM, Informatica, Oracle, SAP, and SmartLogic are among the top metadata management platform vendors according to an IT analyst firm by Gartner’s Magic Quadrant of Metadata Management Solutions.
Standardization of metadata
A number of industry standards were developed to make metadata more useful. These standards provide consistency in the language, format, spelling, and other attributes that are used to describe data. Each standard is built on a specific which provides an overall structure for all metadata.