A very important petition has been started by Jon Siracusa of ArsTechnica regarding the future of metadata in Mac OS X. Apple has strenuously resisted bringing rich metadata support into OS X. What is metadata and why should you care? The quick answer partially lies in what Mac users have noticed missing when moving from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X: loss of labels, file naming difficulty, aliases that break more easily, documents that wonit open in the right application, dependence on file extensions, dependence on Appleis way of organizing files, applications and folders. Thereis an excellent article describing this in depth called "The Mac, Metadata and You," an ArsTechnica Report. Although sometimes technical for average users, itis highly recommended reading.
A quote from Siracusais conclusion crystalizes whatis at stake:
If there is one take-home point in the entire article, it is that the increased use of and support for metadata is a change for the better. It improves the user experience. It makes new things possible. It brings the entire industry one step closer the future.
Metadata support is one of the most stubbornly entrenched software technologies. While the rest of the industry has moved forward by leaps and bounds, operating system support for metadata has remained trapped in the dark ages. So too, it seems, has the debate on file metadata remained mired in the dark ages, rife with shortsightedness and an unthinking adherence to the status quo. The problem is so severe as to cause an otherwise innovative computer maker to pursue technologies that will take its metadata technologies backwards in time.
Whether you are a Mac or a PC user, a novice or an expert, a professional or a hobbyist, I encourage you to at least spend some time thinking about file metadata. Focus on the fundamentals. Think big. File metadata touches almost every aspect of the daily computing experience. Even small improvements to the infrastructure can have far-reaching effects.
Apple says or implies at every opportunity that the changes are part of making the Mac platform more compatible. Siracusa is one of many voices proving that this need not be an either/or proposition. Tempers on this subject boiled over last week when Apple removed a developer technote from itis site. "Mac OS X Programming Guidelines" contained statements about eliminating any remaining (Mac OS 9 originated) file metadata dependencies. When developers rose in protest, Apple removed it. Cynics responded by saying Appleis now toning down the language of the technote, but a policy change will not be forthcoming.
Thereis been some anecdotal evidence published by online sources such as Matt Deatherageis Mac Journals that this stubborn behavior on Appleis part comes directly from Software VP, Avie Tevanian not showing any interest in incorporating a technology he and his onetime NeXT employees didnit invent... meaning most everything in Mac OS 9. Only public pressure, itis been said, forced him to grudgingly include things like an Apple Menu or List View in the finder.
The petition requires a name and e-mail address, but privacy can be maintained. He notes, "This proposal will be formally submitted to Apple as a ibug reporti after an adequate number of supporters have come forward. Supporters will be listed in the submission to Apple as per the privacy preferences set on this petition form. Selected supporter comments (from this petition or via e-mail) may also be added to the submission."
Stop by and sign the Mac OS X Metadata Petition.