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JSON Linked Data (JSON-LD) is a way how plain JSON can be interpreted as RDF triples. It defines a way how given JSON is mapped to RDF triples, and how a set of given RDF triples are serialized as JSON. JSON-LD can be interpreted and processed with plain JSON tools, but it can also be used with RDF tooling that is using RDF for managing linked data.
JSON-LD 1.0 was standardized in 2014, and its use has been rising steadily. For some, it conveniently connects the popular JSON format with their linked data services and implementations. For others, the focus is to have some form of "schema language" that describes the data structures they are using.
In W3C's JSON-LD Working Group, there is work underway to create updated specifications, addressing some known limitations of the earlier version. If you are interested in the specific changes, look at the "Changes since 1.0 Recommendation" section of the new JSON-LD 1.1 draft.
Today, W3C published three first public working drafts of JSON-LD 1.1. Quoting W3C's announcement of the publication, here are short descriptions of the three documents:
The JSON-LD 1.1 Syntax document defines a JSON-based format to serialize Linked Data. The syntax is designed to easily integrate into deployed systems that already use JSON, and provides a smooth upgrade path from JSON to JSON-LD. It is primarily intended to be a way to use Linked Data in Web-based programming environments, to build interoperable Web services, and to store Linked Data in JSON-based storage engines. The 1.1 version of this specification will extend the existing JSON-LD 1.0 Recommendation, published in 2014.
The JSON-LD 1.1 Processing Algorithms and API document defines a set of algorithms for programmatic transformations of JSON-LD documents. Restructuring data according to the defined transformations often dramatically simplifies its usage. Furthermore, this document proposes an Application Programming Interface (API) for developers implementing the specified algorithms. The 1.1 version of this specification will extend the existing JSON-LD Processing Algorithms and API Recommendation, published in 2014.
The JSON-LD 1.1 Framing document defines an approach that allows developers to query by example and force a specific tree layout to a JSON-LD document.
While you might not be using JSON-LD in your own API designs today, an increasing number of APIs do. It is becoming more popular, so you might soon encounter APIs that use JSON-LD. If you ever wonder "how could we make our JSON better defined in a formal way?", JSON-LD (and the ongoing work on the 1.1 version) is one possible solution to consider.
An expert in protocol design and structured data, Erik Wilde consults with organizations to help them get the most out of APIs and microservices. Erik has been involved in the development of innovative technologies since the advent of the Web and is active in the IETF and W3C communities. He obtained his PhD from ETH Zurich and served as Associate Adjunct Professor at Berkeley before working at EMC, Siemens and now CA Technologies.