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RDF Translator:
ARESTful Multi-Format
Data Converter for
the Semantic Web
Technical Report
TR-2013-1
Version:July25,2013
Alex Stolz, alex.stolz@unibw.de
BeneRodriguez-Castro,bene.rodriguez@unibw.de
Martin Hepp, martin.hepp@unibw.de
E-Business andWeb ScienceResearchGroup,
UniversitatderBundeswehr Munchen
Werner-Heisenberg-Weg39,D-85579Neubiberg,Germany
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RDF Translator: A RESTful Multi-Format Data
Converter for the Semantic Web
AlexStolz,BeneRodriguez-Castro,andMartinHepp
E-BusinessandWebScienceResearchGroup,UniversitatderBundeswehrMunchen
Werner-Heisenberg-Weg39,D-85579Neubiberg,Germany
falex.stolz,bene.rodriguez,martin.heppg@unibw.de
Abstract. The e interdisciplinarynatureof the Semantic Web and the
manyprojects put forwardbythecommunityledtoalargenumber of
widelyacceptedserializationformatsforRDF.MostoftheseRDFsyn-
taxes havebeendeveloped outof anecessity toserve specicpurposes
better than existingones,e.g. RDFa was proposed d as an extension to
HTMLforembeddingnon-intrusiveRDFstatementsinhuman-readable
documents. Nonetheless, the RDF serialization formats are generally
transducibleamongthemselvesgiventhattheyarecommonlybasedon
the RDFmodel. In this paper, we present (1) aRESTfulWeb service
basedontheHTTPprotocolthattranslatesbetweendierentserializa-
tions.Inadditiontoitscorefunctionality,ourproposedsolutionprovides
(2)featurestoaccommodatefrequentneedsofSemanticWebdevelopers,
namelyastraightforwarduserinterfacewithcopy-to-clipboardfunction-
ality,syntaxhighlighting,persistentURIlinksforeasysharing,coolURI
patterns,and content negotiation usingrespectiveHTTP headers. We
demonstratethebenetofourconverterbypresentingtwousecases.
1 Introduction
Inthelastveyears,SemanticWebdeveloperswereconfrontedwithanincreas-
ing number of alternative syntaxes for publishing RDF content onthe Web.
WhileUniformResourceIdentiers(URIs)andtheResourceDescriptionFrame-
work(RDF)datamodel[8]couldbeestablishedasde-factocomponentsofthe
SemanticWeb,overtimetherehaveemergedanumber ofcompetingRDFse-
rializationformats(alsosyntaxes,dataformats).Whileintheearlydaysofthe
SemanticWebthereonlyexistedXMLasthestandardserializationformatfor
RDF(asdepictedintheSemanticWebstack
1
),themostprominentsyntaxesfor
RDFnowadaysareRDF/XML,N-Triples,Notation3(N3)thatembracesTur-
tleandN-Triples,RDFinattributes(RDFa),andJSON.RDFaiscurrentlythe
mostfoundsyntaxonthe Webfor publishingsemantic content inWebpages
[9,10]. Microdata constitutes analternative syntax for embedding structured
data in HTML, promotedby searchengine operators like Google, Microsoft,
Yandex and Yahoo! inthe context of schema.org
2
, aWebvocabulary aimed
1
http://www:w3:org/2000/Talks/1206-xml2k-tbl/slide10-0:html
2
http://schema:org/
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A.Stolz,B.Rodriguez-Castro,andM.Hepp
tobecommonly understoodbyallsearchengines.TheMicrodataformatwas
initiallydesignedundertheumbrellaoftheWebHypertextApplicationTechnol-
ogyWorkingGroup(WHATWG
3
)andlaterblendedwithworkatW3C.Unlike
RDFa,itrelies onaframe-baseddatastructure(representinginformationasa
tree)withnestedgroupsofname-valuepairs (\items",settingthecontext)[6]
andthus it is not fully compatible withthe more  exible graph-based RDF
datamodel.Togiveanexample,inMicrodataitisstillnotpossibletoexpress
datatypeinformationlikeinRDFa.Inablogpostin2011[12],ManuSporny
summarizedthekeydierences andcommonalities betweenRDFaandMicro-
data(andMicroformats).However,thereareongoingeortstomakeMicrodata
andRDFacompatiblewitheachother,carriedonbythetechnicalarchitecture
group(TAG)atW3C.Atthetimeofwritingthispaper,largepartsofMicrodata
couldalreadybetranslatedseamlesslyintoRDFsyntaxes,andviceversa.
Semantic Webdevelopers maychoosebetweenalternativeserializationfor-
matsbasedonpersonaltasteorintendedpurpose.WhileRDF/XMLusagetraces
backtothebeginningsofRDFandis,similar toN-Triples,preferablyusedin
projectswithinformationexchangebetweensystemsand/orwherelargedatasets
arehandled,RDFaandJSON(orJSON-LD)aredesignedforembeddingRDF
inHTMLmarkupandforeasingtheconsumptionofRDFbyWebapplications,
respectively.TurtleandNotation3[2]representabbreviatedsyntaxesappropri-
ateforhumanreadabilitybyextendingN-TripleswithsupportforcompactURIs
andaddingsyntacticalsugartoshortenthefairlyverboseN-Triplessyntax.
Itisnosurprisethattheabove-mentionedwealthofsyntaxesfortheSemantic
Webcanposeserious limitations oninteroperability betweentools andat the
samemoment be burdensome for Semantic Webdevelopers that havetodeal
with various syntactical variants. A Semantic Web developer not acquainted
withRDFa,forexample,maynot wishtobeconfrontedwithRDFembedded
inHTMLusingRDFa.HewouldratherliketoreadRDFdatainhispreferred
syntax.Similarly,aJavaScriptlibrarythataWebsitereliesonmightnotsupport
parsingRDFafromotherWebpages,albeitbeingcapableofprocessingJSON-
LD.
Obviously,thereismuchvalueintranslatingbetweenthosedierentserial-
izationformats.What is missingisacomprehensiveonlineconverterthatcan
fulllthistask,andatthesametimepermits:
{ developers to quickly test andcheck annotations that are encoded inless
convenientformats(e.g.RDFainHTMLtranslatedtoN3),
{ developerstorstmodelinahuman-friendlierformatandafterwardsconvert
tothetargetformat(e.g.modelinginN3andpublicationasRDF/XML),
{ applicationstobetterinteroperateamongeachother.
Inthispaper,wepresentaWebservicetoconvertbetweenthemostpromi-
nentserializationformatsavailableontheWeb.Theservicetakesadvantageof
aREST-stylearchitecture,thusbeingscalable,statelessandsupportingHTTP
GET andHTTP POSTmethods for translatingdocuments or textual input.
3
http://www:whatwg:org/
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TechnicalReport-RDFTranslator
3
Our mainmotivationtodevelopthis toolwas the lack of free onlineservices
thatprovidequickandhassle-freeconversionsbetweenthemostimportantsyn-
taxesfortheSemanticWeb.Thereexistsuchservices,however,eithertheyare
notcomprehensiveenoughbyprovidingonlyconversionsbetweenasyntaxpair,
or their architecture is not fully REST-compliant, i.e.they may lacksuitable
identiersforrepresentingresources,notallowforcontentnegotiationinitiated
bytheclient,orsimilar.Moreover,theyareoftentechnicallyinspiredandmiss
outthe humanaspect of thedevelopmentprocess, suchas supportingsyntax
highlightingforbetterreadability.Also,sincesofarthereexistnocomprehen-
sive,RDFLib-basedconversionservices,thisistheonlyservicesuitableforde-
velopersthatconsidertorelytheirapplicationsonRDFLibandwanttohavea
sandboxedplaygroundfortestingpurposes.
Themaincontributionsofourapproacharesummarizedasfollows:(1)We
comprise two-way conversions for sevenpopular structured data formats (in-
cludingMicrodata)whichshouldmeetmostdevelopers’needs;(2)weprovidea
user-friendlyconversionservice,thatlowersthebarriersbecausebeingavailable
onlineforfreeandincludingusefuldesignchoiceslikekeyboardshortcuts,easy
copy-and-pastefunctionality,etc.;(3)ourconverterwillalsoreportsyntaxerrors
andisthusappropriateforquicksyntaxvalidation;andnally,(4)duetothe
RESTAPIandHTTPcontentnegotiation,heterogeneoussourcesthatrelyon
dierentdataformatscanbeintegratedeortlessly.
Therestofthepaperisstructuredasfollows:Section2summarizesexisting
toolsforconvertingbetweenRDFformats ontheSemanticWeb;inSection3,
weintroduceourconversionWebservice,andinSection4wepresentcommon
use cases tohighlightsome of the benets ofour onlineconverter. We nally
concludeourworkinSection5.
2 Related Tools
There exist anumber of online tools for the conversionbetweenserialization
formatsforRDF.Someofthesetoolshavetheiroriginsinoineconvertersthat
aremadeavailableonlineasWebservices,whileothersarepureWebservicesto
oerconversionsbetweenvariousWebdataformats.SomeoftheavailableWeb
servicesarelimitedtotransformationsbetweenspecicsyntaxes.Consequently,
wewillonlybeabletoreportthemostpopularonesofthiskind.
Any23
4
(\AnythingtoTriples")isaframeworkthatwasinitiallyproposed
as apowerful Java library and command-line toolfor parsingand serializing
avarietyofWebdocumentformats,usedbytheSindiceSemanticWebsearch
engine.Soon it was also featured as a public REST-style Web service
5
with
form-basedsubmissionmode,supportforcoolURIs,GETandPOSTrequests,
content negotiation,and advanced error reporting with proper HTTP status
codes.Triplr
6
(\stuin,triplesout")wasoneoftheearliestRDFformatcon-
4
http://any23:apache:org/
5
http://any23:org/
6
http://triplr:org/
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4
A.Stolz,B.Rodriguez-Castro,andM.Hepp
vertersfortheSemanticWebannouncedin2007.ItisbasedonRaptor,anRDF
syntaxlibrarythatispartoftheRedlandlibrdf packagewritteninC.Atthe
timeTriplrwasdesigned,itwasalreadycapableofguessingtheinputformatof
thesupplieddatasource,whichisaveryusefulandmuch-neededfunctionality
foronlineconverters.Nevertheless,theserviceisprovidedasarawRESTservice
without anyHTML-basedinput formelds that wouldsupport users incom-
posingtheRESTURIs.RDFDistilleremergedfromasimilarmotivationas
Triplr,namelyfortheprovisionofaRubyGemforSemanticWebdevelopment
withtheRubyprogramminglanguage.IthasalsobeendeployedasapublicWeb
serviceandisupdatedfrequentlyassoonasnewfeaturesarrive.RDFDistiller
providestransformationsupportforawealthofRDFsyntaxes.
Omnidator
8
(\Omnipotent Data Translator") is a pure Web service in-
tendedasadataformattranslatorbetweenformatscontainingschema.orgterms
intoothersyntaxes.Currently,itislimitedtoprocessschema.org datainCSV
andMicrodata.ItcanturninputdataintoJSON,RDF/XML,orTurtle.
Inparalleltothetoolsandservicespresentedsofar,thereexistWebservices
solelyfocusingonconversionsbetweenspecicdataformats,e.g.transforming
RDFaintoRDF/XMLorNotation3(N3),butnotviceversa.RDFa1.1Dis-
tiller and Parser
9
is the ocialRDFaparsing service maintained by W3C
thattranslatestoRDF/XML,Turtle,N-TriplesandJSON-LD.Theservicere-
liesonthePythonRDFpackageRDFLibandrelatedlibrariesforparsingRDFa
(pyRDFa) andforserializingto the various output formats.Besides URIand
textualinputitallowstouploadlocalleswithRDFaembeddedinvarioussyn-
taxeslikeHTML5,XHTML,XML,Atom,andSVG.Similar,butnotaspowerful
servicesforconvertingRDFatootherWebformatsareprovidedbytheRDFa
OnlineParser
10
andRDFaLite2RDFExtractor
11
.Thelatterispowered
bynode.js.AsimilarRDFextractoralsoexistsfortheMicrodatasyntax
12
.
NoneoftheWebservicespresentedsofarsupporttheconversionfromtradi-
tionalRDFsyntaxestoRDFembeddedinWebdocumentformatslikeRDFaand
MicrodatainHTML.Firstattemptstodothis resultedintheproposalofthe
SnippetStyleapproachforRDFa[5].Inthiscontext,anonlineconvertertermed
RDF2RDFa
13
waspresentedtoturnRDF/XMLcontentintoRDFa.Laterfol-
lowedaMicrodatavariantofthatservice,namelyRDF2Microdata
14
.Tothe
bestofourknowledge,theseserviceswerethersttogenerateRDFaorMicro-
datasnippetsforembeddingRDFcontentinHTML.Asimilarfunctionalityis
provided bythe RDFaserializer plugininthe PHP ARC2library,showcased
online
15
asaWebservice.
7
http://rdf:greggkellogg:net/distiller
8
http://omnidator:appspot:com/
9
http://www:w3:org/2012/pyRdfa/
10
http://rdf-in-html:appspot:com/
11
http://getschema:org/rdfaliteextractor/about
12
http://getschema:org/microdataextractor/about
13
http://www:ebusiness-unibw:org/tools/rdf2rdfa/
14
http://www:ebusiness-unibw:org/tools/rdf2microdata/
15
http://zazi:smiy:org/rdfaparser:html
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TechnicalReport-RDFTranslator
5
Fig.1.ServicearchitectureofRDFTranslator
Apowerful,yetoutdatedandapparentlyshutdownservicewasTalisMorph
16
thatwas abletotransformbetweendierent SemanticWebformats.Further-
more, there are some RDF validators that provide in addition to their core
functionality,i.e.thevalidation,alsoconversionfunctionality.rdf:about
17
,for
example, is providinganinput text area toconvert betweenRDF/XML and
Notation3(includingTurtleandN-Triples).
3 RDFTranslator
In this section,we present RDF Translator
18
, a Webservice for bidirection-
allyconvertingbetweenvariousRDFdataformats,namelyRDFa,Microdata,
RDF/XML,Notation3,N-Triples,RDF/JSON,andJSON-LD.Unlikemostof
the tools presentedinSection2,our onlineconverteris acomprehensive and
convenientWebservicewithhavingSemanticWebdevelopersinmind.
Subsequently we outline the service architecture, followed by the descrip-
tionoftheuser interfaceandwhat featurestherearetoensurethedeveloper-
friendlinessofourWebservice.Thisisafterwardscomplementedbythespecica-
tionoftheunderlyingRESTAPIandtherelatedcompliancewithbestpractices
inWebtechnologydesign,i.e.coolURIs,contentnegotiation,andCORSsup-
port.Wefurther addresshowwesolvedprexresolutionforbetterreadability
oftheresultingoutput.
3.1 ServiceArchitecture
Fig.1depictsthearchitectureofRDFTranslator.AtthecoreoftheWebser-
vice is a powerful RESTAPIthathandles allincomingrequests,be it direct
16
http://www:w3:org/2001/sw/wiki/Morph
17
http://rdfabout:com/demo/validator/
18
http://rdf-translator:appspot:com/
6
A.Stolz,B.Rodriguez-Castro,andM.Hepp
requestsfromHTTP-capableclientapplications,browserbookmarklets,orindi-
rectrequestsviatheWebuserinterface.TheRESTAPIsupportsbothHTTP
GETandHTTP POST request methods,whereby thelatter is moresuitable
thantheformerforsubmittingrawdatatobeconvertedbytheservice.Forhu-
manuserstheWebserviceoersanintuitiveWebuserinterface,whichprovides
twooptions,namelytheprovisionofaWebresourceURIwhichcontentsareto
beconverted,orrawtextualinputtobetranslatedintoatargetformat.More
detailsabouttheWebuserinterfacefollowinSection3.2.
TheconverterisimplementedasaGoogleAppEngineWebservice(basedon
thewebapp2 Pythonframework)andcanthusscaleuptomanyparallelrequests
giventhatGoogleallowsforpaidplans withquite exibleresourceallocation.
TheservicetakesadvantageoftheRDFLiblibrary
19
forparsing,manipulating
andserializingRDFgraphs.Withrespecttocoveringthefullconversioncycle,
RDFLibinits current versionis missing serializers for RDFaandMicrodata.
InitiallywetriedtollthisgapbyusingRDF2RDFaandRDF2Microdata(see
Section2),however,theiroutputsareunsatisfyingbecausemaintenanceofthese
serviceshasstoppedlongtimeago,sowedecidedtoprovidetwocustomplugins
compatible with RDFLib that we made publicly available online
20
. The full
sourcecodeoftheWebservicehasbeenpublishedasaBitbucketrepository
21
.
It is licensed under a LGPL license andpeople are invited to run their own
serviceinstancesonGoogleAppEngine.
3.2 WebUser r Interface
Theuserinterfacewasdevelopedwithuser-friendlinessinmind,thuskeptclean
andstraightforward.Fig.2illustratesascreenshotoftheWebfrontendofthe
Web service, sketching the input box, the syntax-highlightedoutput and the
copy-to-clipboardbuttontoeasecopy-and-paste.Itfurthercanbeseenthatthe
inputboxconsistsoftabs,onefortheURIsubmission(defaultoption)andthe
otheroneforthetextualinput.InthegivenscreenshottheURItabisactivated,
thusshowingaURIinputeldalongwiththesubmitbuttonandselectorsfor
theinputandoutputformats.ThedataformatscurrentlysupportedbytheWeb
serviceare:
{ RDFa,
{ Microdata,
{ RDF/XML(standardsyntax,plusamoreconciseXMLsyntax,i.e.replacing
rdf:Descriptionnodesbytypednodes),
{ N3,
{ N-Triples,
{ RDF-JSON(standardsyntax,plusamoreconciseJSONsyntax,i.e.using
namespaceprexesinsteadoffullURIs),and
19
http://www:rdflib:net/
20
https://github:com/alexstolz/rdflib-rdfa-serializer and https://github:c
om/alexstolz/rdflib-microdata-serializer
21
https://bitbucket:org/alexstolz/rdf-translator
TechnicalReport-RDFTranslator
7
Fig.2.ScreenshotoftheRDFTranslator service
{ JSON-LD.
Furthermore,theinputformatcanbedeterminedautomaticallybymeansof
contentnegotiation,underthepremisethatthecorrectmediatypewassupplied.
Otherwise,theautomaticdetectionofthedocumentformatfailswithanerror
message.
TheWebfrontendconsistsofaHTML5documentwithJavaScript(JQuery)
foruserinteraction,asynchronouscommunication,andmanipulationofthedoc-
umenttree.
URISubmission. ThemainelementfortheURIsubmissionistheinputtext
eldforenteringtheURI.AslongasthereisinputmissingorthesuppliedURI
is invalid,theURIinput eldremainsred-shaded.Thisisafeaturesupported
byHTML5whichattractsattentionoftheusertopreventhimfromsubmitting
incorrectdata.However,forsimpleHTTPaddressesthehttp://-prexneednot
beexplicitlysuppliedwiththeURI.Accordingtothis,itispossibletoshorten
http://www:example:comwithwww:example:com,butnothttps://www:example
:com.For helpingtheusertogetstartedwiththeWebservice,theURIinput
eldispre-lledwithaWebpageURIthatcontainssemanticdescriptions.
8
A.Stolz,B.Rodriguez-Castro,andM.Hepp
TheWebserviceprovideskeyshortcuts for fasterform submissions.Ifthe
pagefocusisintheURIinputeldorintheinputoroutputselectors,asimple
keystroke(pressingthereturn-key)sucestotriggertheconversionprocess.So
thereisactuallynoneedtopresstheSubmit-button,whichmayhelpspeedup
repetitivetaskslikethetedioustaskoftranslatingamoderatelistofURIsinto
otherformats.
ForsharingresultswithotherpeopletheWebservicereturnspersistentURIs
together withtheconversionoutput.Unlikeas forthetextualinputmode,for
URIsubmissionsthereappearsanadditionalgreyboxbelowtheconverterout-
put. It contains two persistent links for easy sharing with other developers,
namelyonelinkthatrefers tothesyntax-highlightedversionoftheoutputfor
sharingbetweenhumans,andasecondlinkthatpointstotherawoutputformat
withthepropermediatypesupplied,hencebeingsuitableforintegrationwith
otherWebapplications.
Textual Input. Thetextualinputallows developerstoenterrawinput data
intoa text area.Since users submit plaindata, the automatic format detec-
tiondoesnotworkforthistypeoftransformationunlesstheformatisguessed
bychance.Inother words,contentnegotiationfails becausethereis nometa-
dataavailableaswhencallingaURIthatreturnsHTTPresponseheaderswith
contenttypedeclarationssupplied.
Developersareagainactivelysupportedbybeingoeredworkingexamples
foreverytypeofserializationformattobecomeacquaintedmoreeasilywiththe
Webservice.
Syntax Highlighting. Syntax highlightingis a visualmeans that most de-
velopers usingadvancedtexteditorstowriteandreadcodearefamiliarwith.
Similartoprogramminglanguages,alsothedierentsyntaxvariants for RDF
can be made better readable for humans by highlighting terms according to
grammarandkeywords.OurWebserviceappliessyntaxhighlightingtotheout-
put ofthetranslatedcontents intheWebinterface or,if requestedexplicitly,
usingtheRESTAPI.
TheWebserviceaccomplishessyntaxhighlightingbyvirtueofthesophisti-
catedPygments
22
libraryforPython.Pygmentssupportsallrequiredsyntaxes,
i.e. RDFa andMicrodata usingthe HTML L formatter; RDF/XML L taking ad-
vantageoftheXMLformatter;RDF/JSONandJSON-LDbyuseoftheJSON
lexer;andN3andN-Triplesbymeansofacustom-builtNotation3lexer.
Bookmarklets. FordevelopersthatdonotprefertovisittheWebserviceevery
timetheyndaninterestingWebresourcewithembeddedRDFaorMicrodata,
bookmarkletsareaconvenientmeansforquicklyextractingthecontainedstruc-
turedmarkupof any Webpageandpresentingitinthe developer’spreferred
22
http://pygments:org/
TechnicalReport-RDFTranslator
9
syntax.BookmarkletsareJavaScriptsnippetssuitableforbeingaddedtobook-
markfolders andtoolbarsofmodernbrowsers.This wayasimpleclickonthe
createdbookmarkissucienttotranslatethecontents ofthecurrentWebre-
source into an arbitrary target RDF syntax. The bookmarklet code used to
convertstructureddataintheformofRDFatosyntax-highlightedNotation3
codelooksasfollows:
javascript:location.href=’http://rdf-translator.appspot.com/convert/rdfa/n3/
html/’+encodeURIComponent(location.href);
OnthelandingpageofourWebserviceweareprovidingacomprehensivematrix
tablewithallpossiblecombinationsofsyntaxconversions.
Other Features. Inadditiontothe features presentedsofar,theWebuser
interfacecanfurtherassisthumanusersinvariousaspects.Thisincludes:
{ copy-to-clipboardfunctionalitythatsavestheeortforselectingandcopying
theoutputtexttothesystemclipboard(seeFig.2),
{ feedbacklink(notvisibleinFig.2)forcontactingthedevelopers,and
{ verboseerror messagesthatcanprovidehelpful explanations about failed
translations.
3.3 RESTAPI
Asmentionedpreviously,our Webservice isbasedontheRESTarchitecture
thatwas rst introducedbyR.T.FieldinginhisPhD thesis in2000[4].The
coreaspectsofRESTaretheclient-serverarchitecture,statelessnessofclientand
serveracrossmultiplerequests,uniformidentiersforaddressingresourceswith
specic representations, andself-descriptive messages.This way REST scales
very well,makingit abest practice for Webservices designandatthe same
moment arecommendedarchitecturalstylefor theWorldWideWeb.As such
aRESTfulWebservicenotonlypermitstobeusedthroughaWebfrontend,
but also by other client applications that make use of the Hypertext Trans-
ferProtocol(HTTP)[3]andrelatedfeatures likecontent negotiation, e.g.by
command-linetoolslikecurl
23
orevenbrowserplugins(andbookmarklets).
We address the requirements of the RESTarchitecture by providing cool
URIs,HTTPGETandHTTPPOSTmethods,andHTTPcontentnegotiation
whererequestedmediatypesdenehowtorepresentaresource.
Cool URIs. In1998,TimBerners-Leepublishedanarticle[1]wherehepos-
tulatedtheuseofcoolURIsontheWeb.Theideaistoleaveoutdetailsinthe
URIstringthataresubjecttolikelychangeinthefuture,e.g.statusinforma-
tionaboutthedocument(e.g.draft,nal),underlyingsoftwaremechanisms(e.g.
.php,cgi-bin),orevenmetadata(e.g.authorinformation,orstoragedetailslike
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http://curl:haxx:se/
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested