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(computer science)
A description of the data in a source, distinct from the actual data; for example, the currency by which prices are measured in a data source for purchasing goods.


(Note: One unhyphenated word with initial capital; contrast meta data) A word coined by Jack E. Myers to represent current and future lines of products implementing the concepts of his MetaModel, and also to designate his company The Metadata Company that would develop and market those products.

A data and publication search performed when Myers coined the term, early in the summer of 1969, did not discover any use either of the word "metadata" or "meta data". Myers used the term in a 1973 product brochure and it is an Incontestable registered U.S. Trademark.


(1) (The Metadata Company, LLC, Long Beach, CA, Formerly Metadata Information Partners, Metadata is a software firm offering a variety of data management products and services. In 1986, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the company incontestable status for the Metadata trademark. Whenever the term is used generically in this encyclopedia (definition #2 below), it is spelled with a dash (meta-data).

(2) (meta-data) Data that describes other data. For example, data dictionaries and repositories provide information about the data elements in a database (see data dictionary). Digital cameras store meta-data in the image files that include the date the photo was taken along with camera settings (see EXIF). Digital music files contain meta-data such as song title and artist name (see ID3 tag). Meta-data are stored in an HTML page (Web page) to help search engines define the page properly, and most especially, make it rank higher in the results list (see meta tag).

Meta-data has existed for centuries. Card catalogs and handwritten indexes are examples long before the electronic age. See Meta Data Coalition.

The Most Glaring Lack of Meta-Data
The music CD should have been designed with meta-data, such as album name, artist and song titles. With 650 million bytes of storage, a few thousand could have easily been reserved for future use. In the early 1980s, readouts to display this information were expensive, and the future was not considered. The result was a circuitous route of searching by track length for the missing data on the Internet when a CD was played on the computer (see CDDB), as well as conflicts in older stand-alone CD players when meta-data was finally added to the format.

Meta-Data in the Snowden Debacle
After former CIA employee Edward Snowden leaked top-secret American surveillance programs to the press in May 2013, meta-data came front and center. It was revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had undertaken massive phone surveillance, and the controversy was about what was recorded: the actual voice conversations or only the meta-data (times and telephone numbers of the calls). Even when voice content is not recorded, the meta-data can be analyzed to determine who might be in contact with suspected terrorists.

Meta-Data in an Image File
A huge amount of meta-data can be stored in an image file. The IPTC Core section (expanded below) is a meta-data standard from the International Press Telecommunications Council for adding creation data.

A Ton More
An image file can be edited to include a huge amount of meta-data to describe the file. DICOM stands for Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine.
References in periodicals archive ?
Inputting data into the meta-data database structure requires three tasks: creating the meta data records, renaming the data files and moving the data files from the local data computer to the centralized server.
Having SAP R/3 operational and BW meta data within the leading graphical modeling environment, greatly assists the warehouse design process.
While both versions purport to be an attempt to help users simplify the management and deployment of data warehouses and business intelligence applications by ensuring interoperability between meta data, the fact that Microsoft and Oracle can't agree on a standard version of the spec is bad news for users, and could mean they end up having to make a choice.
Changes to volume meta data would include creating volumes within disk groups, resizing volumes, or removing mirrored copies.
ASI Inquire uses this meta data to define corporate business rules and standards and as a way to map difficult-to-read data labels to standard business terms for user presentation.
Also today, the Meta Data Coalition (MDC) formally announced that the Open Information Model (OIM) has been accepted as the metadata standard.
By storing and analyzing systems meta data, organizations can not only detect unusual activity in a timely manner, but also prevent leaks of confidential or private information with real-time policy enforcement.
Nasdaq: VIAS) today announced that as part of the Microsoft XML Interchange initiative, the company has demonstrated its ability to interchange meta data using XML and the Open Information Model (OIM) between its industry-leading Rochade(R) repository and the Microsoft Repository.
today announced it joined the Meta Data Coalition (MDC), an industry consortium of 47 software vendors and corporations, and transferred to the organization the rights to maintain and evolve the Microsoft(R) Open Information Model (OIM), a specification for representing meta-data.
By combining Innovative's proprietary Meta Data Repository with Microsoft's Analysis Services, BIoffice offers knowledge workers true simplicity of use, unprecedented insight, and the ability to:
Meta Data Market Leader Enriches Oracle's Common Warehouse Meta Data Strategy
Captured Video and Audio Data is Searchable by Time, Date, Officer, Vehicle, Incident, Trigger, Event, Bookmarks (Officer Notes), and Extensive Captured Meta Data.