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October 2008

The Metadata Working Group (MWG) - a digital media consortium between Adobe, Apple, Canon, Microsoft, Nokia and Sony formed to solve key issues surrounding metadata - has published its first guidelines that are designed to increase the interoperability and preservation of metadata contained in digital photographs.

Metadata, sometimes referred to as “data about data”, allows photographers to tag their digital photos with information such as the location, the time of day the image was taken, focal length, aperture, shutter speed, white balance etc. For both professional and amateur photographers this enables basic activities such as being able to find and share photos.

The problem has been that the digital photography industry has several existing metadata container formats – such as XMP, IPTC, and Exif – that each has differing standards about how metadata properties must be stored, ordered and encoded. These standards often overlap in purpose and lack interoperability guidance - the result is that many interoperability scenarios between devices, applications and services aren’t possible because no clearly defined rules and standards exist to ensure consistency of use. For example, metadata created by a photographer may not be visible to a picture editor or prospective client if they use different formats, devices or programmes.

Josh Weisberg, chairman and founder of the MWG and director of Microsoft’s Rich Media Group, explained: “Lack of metadata interoperability has led to significant frustration for both consumer and pro photographers, and our companies have spent considerable resources trying to deal with the problem. Getting these industry leaders together to rally around metadata interoperability is a real turning point, one that we believe will result in technology that’s easier for photographers to use. We’ve been working very hard to produce guidelines that are compatible across all applications, devices and services and that provide best practices for how, when and where metadata should be changed in popular file formats.”

The MWG’s initial guidelines target still photo metadata, with a focus on common consumer uses. The guidelines also identify overlapping content between existing standards and schemas. Weisberg said: “We’ve chosen to address the most common issues photographers face as we feel this will make the biggest impact for the average photographer. Down the road, we will expand our work to include other metadata issues relevant to photographers.”

Masaya Maeda, chief executive of Image Communication Products Operations at Canon, commented: “As the world’s leading digital camera manufacturer, Canon is always looking for ways to make digital photography easier and more convenient. The metadata guidelines we’ve developed through the Metadata Working Group are an important first step in making digital photography more accessible.”

The Metadata Working Group is based on a 2006 proposal by Microsoft and was created in 2007 by five founding members - Adobe, Apple, Canon, Microsoft and Nokia. Sony joined the organisation as a board member in 2008. The group is dedicated to the preservation and seamless interoperability of digital media metadata and to interoperability and availability to all applications, devices and services.

For more details of the new guidelines and more information on the Metadata Working Group just click here. Canon is a founding member of the Metadata Working Group.