What used to be insider language in the information science industry, ontologies and taxonomies are becoming more frequent in the average vernacular. This could be due to semantics and linked data also becoming more common. Forbes brought this interesting and familiar topic to our attention in their article, “Taxonomies vs. Ontologies.”

Now that they are more commonly used, a repeat question keeps arising – how do they differ from one another? Understanding this distinction is important in making decisions about metadata management.

Taxonomies are more common or at least feels more familiar. Taxonomies provide the terms or categories that a given entity can be described by, and often also describes one or more dimensions that provide narrower or broader classification.

Ontologies define what can be labeled as what before it is classified. What is a thing? When does a collection of things become a thing in its own right?

These are not easy questions to answer. However, they are important to address for true and comprehensive findability.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Data Harmony, a unit of Access Innovations, the world leader in indexing and making content findable.