Metadata is often referred to as “data about data”. It is used to describe, explain and make sense of the information contained in a larger data set. Examples of metadata include titles, descriptions, keywords, authors, creation/modification times, and other information that gives context to the data it describes.
Metadata can also be used to describe relationships between different pieces of data or how it relates to other data stored elsewhere. Metadata is stored in numerous ways such as in a database, within the content of a file, or as part of the directory structure of a larger system.
Database records for digital objects such as images, audio and video files, web pages and documents are particularly rich with metadata. Commonly used metadata fields relate to who created the object, when it was last modified and by whom. This type of information is also used to track usage and copyright information.
Metadata can also be used to help find and identify a digital object in a database. For example, metadata could include tags, titles and descriptions associated with a particular document or other digital asset. This type of information can then be used by an organization or service provider to quickly locate files and quickly create useful collections or recommendations.
Metadata is important because it provides context to digital assets, allowing us to quickly find what we need in an online database or repository.