Smith: The Need for a Universal Bible Annotation Format

Bible Gateway gets about 6M unique visitors each month. Though 25% are from outside the US, the significant majority are English-speaking. 80-90% of this traffic is for Bible passages (not topics, etc.). Basic problem: personal Bible notes aren’t portable. The solution should be based on open-standards, simple, and device/platform/language-independent.

Some specific requirements:

  1. allow attaching content to Bible passages
  2. enable both “user” (open-ended) and “professional” (editorially-controlled) content
  3. accept text, audio, video, and future formats
  4. people need control over their own content

Proposed solution:

  1. Content format (the data you supply)
  2. Exchange format (metadata: who are you, when was your content provided)
  3. Exchange system (protocols)

Content: (X)HTML is the closest to a universal standard, allows basic formatting, supports Unicode. HTML5 introduces some useful features here. The central problem here: how to encode Bible references? We want them to be independent of source (not just Bible Gateway), and unambiguous. OSIS identifiers might provide a partial solution.