Metadata Working Group Standardizes Photo Info

September 25, 2008 | Mark Goldstein | Technique | Comment |

Metadata Working GroupAt a press conference hosted by Microsoft yesterday at 12:15 CET at Photokina, the Metadata Working Group (MWD) – an organisation which comprises industry giants Adobe, Apple, Canon, Microsoft, Nokia and Sony –  published a set of guidelines for handling image metadata. This new set of guidelines is intended to be a specification “designed to increase interoperability and preservation of metadata in digital photographs”.

In relation to digital photos, metadata may encompass anything from shooting information to geographical coordinates to copyright notices and content-related tags. Image metadata is a great help in organising and searching through huge libraries of digital photos based on information like where, when and how they were taken, by whom, what they depict etc.

At the moment, several metadata standards coexist, but in the view of the Metadata Working Group they “often overlap in purpose and lack interoperability guidance”. This may have unintended consequences and implications, for example metadata created by the author of a photograph may not be visible to an editor, viewer or prospective buyer if they use different formats, devices or programs.

The three biggest metadata formats today are EXIF, IPTC-IIM and XMP. The Metadata Working Group’s specification identifies the overlaps between these formats and proposes guidelines intended to eliminate any interoperability issues and enhance consistency in handling the different types of metadata. In other words, the MWG is not trying to reinvent the wheel by proposing an all-new standard, structure or storage format. Instead, it aims to establish compatibility across the existing ones by suggesting a model based on consumer use cases, by creating definitions of the roles each device or application play when interacting with metadata, by proposing best practices for how, when and where metadata should be changed using existing metadata standards and by rationalising common metadata fields between these existing standards.

The Metadata Working Group promises to provide further information on the proposed specification at

Microsoft Press Release

Metadata Working Group Introduces First Specification for Interoperability and Preservation of Metadata in Digital Photography

Adobe, Apple, Canon, Microsoft, Nokia and Sony form Metadata Working Group

Aim, Focus … Click: Microsoft Takes a Fresh Approach to Digital Photography - September 24, 2008

COLOGNE, Germany — Sept. 24, 2008 At Photokina 2008, industry-leading companies announced the Metadata Working Group, an organization formed in 2007 dedicated to solving key interoperability issues that make finding, organizing and searching for digital photos a challenge. Today, the Metadata Working Group has also introduced its first specification, which provides guidelines designed to increase interoperability and preservation of metadata in digital photographs.

“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,” said Josh Weisberg, chairman and founder of the Metadata Working Group and director of Microsoft’s Rich Media Group. “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.”

Metadata, sometimes referred to as “data about data,” is important to digital photography because it allows photographers to tag their digital photos with information such as where and when they were taken. For both professional photographers and consumers, this enables basic activities such as being able to find and share photos. Although the digital photography industry has several metadata standards, these existing standards often overlap in purpose and lack interoperability guidance. The result is that many interoperability scenarios between devices, applications and services are not possible because no clearly defined rules and standards exist to ensure consistent use. The Metadata Working Group’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.

“We’ve chosen to address the most common issues photographers face as we feel this will make the biggest impact for the average photographer,” Weisberg said. “Down the road, we will expand our work to include other metadata issues relevant to photographers.”

About Metadata Working Group
Based on a 2006 proposal by Microsoft, the Metadata Working Group (MWG) organization was created in 2007 by five founding members: Adobe Systems, Inc., Apple Inc., Canon Inc., Microsoft and Nokia. Sony Corp. joined the organization 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 information, please visit the Metadata Working Group Web site at

Member Quotes
“Adobe has been a vocal advocate for greater metadata interoperability starting with our introduction of the XMP metadata format in 2001, and we’re glad that XMP could be part of the foundation of these new guidelines,” said Kevin Connor, vice president of product management for Professional Digital Imaging at Adobe. “We believe that the combined knowledge of the Metadata Working Group member companies has resulted in a practical solution that will make it easier for developers to create products that work well together while preserving valuable information for customers.”

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

“For the great number of people who use Microsoft Windows for digital photography, we feel we have a responsibility to provide powerful products that are easy to use,” said David Vaskevich, chief technology officer at Microsoft. “The Metadata Working Group is an important part of the work we’re doing to make digital photography products that work well with other applications, devices and services, and ultimately that give photographers more choices.”

“Our converged mobile devices and services have become important enablers for people to capture and share their lives,” said Timo Ali-Vehmas, vice president of Compatibility & Industry Collaboration at Nokia. “The Metadata Working Group has a pivotal role in creating seamless interoperability of digital image metadata and, therefore, making it easier for consumers to create, find, organize and share their pictures.”

“Sony’s ongoing vision is to create new user experiences. We consider the Metadata Working Group a great opportunity for the industry to work together to improve the experience for consumers who enjoy digital photography,” said Keiichiro Shimada, senior vice president, corporate executive and president of the Technology Development Group at Sony. “By contributing to the activities of the Metadata Working Group, Sony aims to continue to provide attractive digital imaging products and applications to consumers.”

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