An IMS Proposal – Eliminate all use of JSON-LD

I sent the following message to IMS because I am really unhappy with IMS use of the JSON-LD in our JSON-based specifications. Apologies in advance to the fans of RDF. We all hoped that JSON-LD would give us the best of both worlds – but it seems like it is the worst of all worlds. I don’t expect to win this argument – because the people making the decisions are not the people writing the code and feeling the unneeded pain caused by JSON-LD.

Hi all,

I would like to formally propose that we no longer use JSON-LD in any IMS specification going forward. I would like to also propose that we formally standardize prefixes for all specifications we have issued that use JSON-LD so implementations can legitimately parse our data models using JSON reliably.

Furthermore we would alter certifications for JSON-LD specs to generate and accept JSON instead of JSON-LD.

My reasoning is that we are far outside the norm of the modern-day REST web services world – and while there are fans of JSON-LD – they are the same folks that loved RDF and just found a new place to push their ideas.

Our standards are one domain of interest and our use of JSON-LD actually tends to create silos of data models. If we compare the JSON-LD for LTI 2.0 and the JSON-LD for ContentItem – they are completely distinct namespaces and things like the “contact” structure – which *should be the same* are actually completely different – and our dysfunctional use of JSON-LD *discourages* the sharing of data model elements between different specifications.

And if you take a look at CASA using JSON Schema – it is even worse. Simple things like contact information again are given completely different data models.

And as I am starting to write code that crosses these spec boundaries boundaries, I am finding that it is far less important to have globally unique identifiers for the notion of a contact data structure – but instead a way to have a contact data structure that we can share and reuse across many specifications.

I think that the right approach is to go straight to a namespaced OO approach to model our underlying data objects and then when we build a new spec and want to pull in the org.imsglobal.shared.Contact object – we just pull in the object and then the JSON serialization is obvious.

As we move away from document-styled specs to API-styled specs – it would seem like we just should move towards defining our interoperable data formats in a way that makes the development of APIs very simple and straightforward instead of wasting so much effort to achieve some dream of future RDF nirvana.

I now have samples of how I model these JSON documents across services – and I can tell you that (a) we are woefully inconsistent across our specs and JSON-LD is partially *causing* the problem and (b) anything that has to do with properly parsing JSON-LD is really poor given the lack of real toolset support and (c) it is frustrating the increasing way that the certification suites are making slightly harder by randomly throwing in JSON-LD just to break those who just want to parse JSON – the solution is to reverse engineer the certification patterns and build lame JSON parsers instead of really using JSON-LD tool chains.

It is high time to walk away from JSON-LD going forward.

Looking forward to your comments.