What is metadata

The data of datas


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Metadata is often thought of as a difficult subject to understand, or perhaps something which is only understood by the most skilled of developers. This is not the case. I’ll summarise it for you in five words: metadata provides information about data. Let us take a brief look into the matter.


Data describes the state of something physical or virtual. It is stored in files and comes in many different types including digital pictures, text and word-processor documents and internet packets - the list is effectively endless. Data is the primary concern of the file. Sometimes, this isn’t enough to satisfy the developer or end-user.


When you take a photograph with your smartphone, you record the image but you will also record details about when and where you took the picture as well as the camera settings. This is data about the data, this is the meta-data.


Example Data Metadata
Digital picture Pixel colour values Time, date and where the image was created. ISO settings. F-stop. Apature-size
Music/ sound file The information required to play the file (sample rate, bit-depth, sample values etc) Track number, music-genre, artist, album name, year of release

Types of data

There are different types of metadata, but it seems that a definitive list doesn’t exist. Let’s cover a few which are sometimes referred to:

All of these examples provide information about the data in some way, and this is the crucial point, the thing which defines metadata.

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