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What is JSON-LD

Sunday, June 25th, 2017 by Servage

json-ldYou don’t have to be a JavaScript developer to know JSON. It has become the standard for transferring data over the Internet, for example from back-end APIs to front-end applications. However, JSON-LD is a totally different story. It’s a relatively new and unpopular standard among developers, at least compared to JSON.

JSON for Linked Data

JSON-LD stands for JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data. As the name suggests, it is used to represent linked data using JSON. It is meant to be as simple as possible for developers to convert their existing JSON to JSON-LD.

Linked Data Explained

So, what is this linked data? In order to understand linked data, one should have a basic understanding of the semantic web. Semantic web is an extension to the traditional web that is not only built for humans but also for machines. Data is provided in a machine-friendly format to make it easily available for various devices, such as screen readers and assistive text-to-speech technologies. Semantic web defines which data formats should be used to store the data to keep it readable to both humans and machines.

Linked data is a way to describe this type of information. When the information is put together, it forms a network of data linked to each other. For example, a person can be described in linked data, and additional information can be embedded to the same person resource. This additional information can consist of information about the person’s workplace, school, or even links to other people who are friends with each other. The data can reside on the same website or server, or it can link to an external website like a hyperlink in HTML. In a way, linked data works like a search engine: you start by searching for a subject and you get back data related to it.

JSON-LD in More Detail

Going back to JSON-LD, it is a lightweight data format used to store linked data. Like JSON, it can be read by humans and machines fairly easily. Since JSON-LD is built on top of JSON, it works with RESTful web services just as well as JSON itself. JSON-LD can be stored in relational databases such as MySQL, but also in unstructured databases like MongoDB.

JSON-LD looks like JSON, but has certain additional keywords that start with the @ symbol. The most common keywords are @id and @context. As you might have guessed, @id is a unique identifier that identifies the data being described in the current document. @context is a compact way to refer to identifiers in a JSON-LD document.

By now you should have a basic understanding of what JSON-LD is used for. However, the topic is rather large so if you are interested to learn more about the topic, the www.w3.org specifications is a good place to look for further information.

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Categories: Tips & Tricks

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