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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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


(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.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (


(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.

A Glaring Lack of Meta-Data - The Music CD
Music CDs should have been initially designed with meta-data, such as album name, artist and song titles. In the early 1980s, readouts to display such data on a CD player were expensive, and although a few thousand bytes could have easily been reserved for future use, there was no such accommodation. Later on, CDs were played on the computer, and the solution was a circuitous route of searching for titles by track length on the Internet (see CDDB). When meta-data was finally added, there were conflicts in older stand-alone CD players that attempted to play them.

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.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Factors like the inclusion of data governance and data standardization by organizations are expected to pave the way for better enterprise metadata management market percolation across industries.
Customizing metadata in photos not only makes them easy to categorize but also makes it easy for you to find the right image when you need it.
It mainly focuses on metadata integration architecture based on common warehouse met a model.
Metadata issues are critical because without minimal information, development cycles are wasted simply tracking down whether or not a data element exists consistently among the transactions about to be processed.
"Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval" also includes: an introduction to the concept of metadata a description of the main components of metadata systems and standards an overview of the scope of metadata and its applications a description of typical information retrieval issues in corporate and research environments a demonstration of ways in which metadata is used to improve retrieval a look at ways in which metadata is used to manage information consideration of the role of metadata in information governance.
Henning Schoenenberger, director of product data and metadata at Springer Nature, said: 'We know that researchers are motivated to find and use data but are often faced with challenges in doing so.
You may recall that the NSA justified its data collection operations because the agency was not recording phone calls, only capturing call metadata such as initiating and receiving phone numbers, call duration, and call location.
Several types of metadata--such as asset metadata, business object metadata, temporal metadata, spatial metadata and event metadata--are used to apply actions against assets and business objects such as locating, importing, analysing and making decisions about them.
Tools like ArcGIS Online allow users to see data that may or may not have accompanying metadata or provenance information.
Metadata is information that is not readily apparent from the face of an electronic document (1) Metadata is commonly defined as "data about data." (2) "From a legal standpoint metadata is evidence...
Turner has selected TiVo as its EMEA metadata distribution partner.