Metadata - Explained

Metadata means information about data. Metadata summarizes the basic information about the data, which makes working with data easier. The creation of metadata can be manual (to be precise) or automatic (to contain basic information).

A typical metadata example may consist of the following details which are usually not included in the data source:

  • Title and description,
  • Tags and categories,
  • Who created and when,
  • Who last modified and when,
  • Who can access or update?

For example, every time you take a photo with your mobile phone; it stores extra information about the file so as to efficiently store the image. The extra information may be the camera setting, geolocation, encoding style, or personal details like the name as shown in the image below.


Metadata has various uses, and resource discovery is one of the common ones. Here, it can be compared to effective cataloguing, which includes identifying resources, defining them by criteria, and characterizing resources based on their similarities and dissimilarities. It is also an effective means to organize electronic resources, this is an important use as web-based resources are growing rapidly.

Another use of metadata is interoperability and integration of resources. Using metadata to describe resources is well understood by humans as well as by machines, thus allowing effective levels of interoperability.

Metadata also can facilitate digital identification by using standard numbers that uniquely define the resource specified in the metadata.

Metadata helps optimize various systems and resources as described below:

  • It can extend data longevity. The lifespan of a typical data set can be very short, often because missing or unavailable relevant metadata renders it useless. When comprehensive metadata is developed and maintained, it counters typical data entropy and degradation.
  • It also facilitates data reuse and sharing. Metadata is key to ensuring that data that is highly detailed or complicated is more easily interpreted, analyzed, and processed by the data’s originator and others.
  • Metadata is essential for maintaining historical records of long-term data sets, making up for inconsistencies that can occur in documenting data, personnel, and methods. Comprehensive metadata can also enable data sets designed for a single purpose to be reused for other purposes and over the longer term.


Metadata management is the administration of data that describes other data. It involves establishing policies and processes that ensure information can be integrated, accessed, shared, linked, analyzed, and maintained to the best effect across the organization.

The goal of metadata management is to make it easier for a person or program to locate a specific data asset. This requires designing a metadata repository, populating the repository and making it easy to use information in the repository.

Benefits of metadata management include:

  • Consistency of definitions of metadata so that terminology variations don't cause data retrieval problems.
  • Less redundancy of effort and greater consistency across multiple instances of data because data can be reused appropriately.
  • Maintenance of information across the organization that is not dependent on a particular employee's knowledge.
  • Greater efficiency, leading to faster product and project delivery.

Metadata management goes by the end-to-end process and governance framework for creating, controlling, enhancing, attributing, defining, and managing a metadata schema, model, or another structured aggregation system, either independently or within a repository and the associated supporting processes (often to enable the management of content). For web-based systems, URLs, images, videos, etc. may be referenced from a triples table of an object, attribute, and value.

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