You're only referring to files here, while files are just one example.
Metadata (what you're referring to as extended file attributes) can also
be attached to more abstract objects, such as a contact, for example.
Those abstract objects are described using ontologies, which is, so to
say, a standardized format for metadata for a specific object.
Also, resources (for example a file or a contact in Nepomuk) don't have to
be local, you can just in the same way attach metadata to webpages you
visited, or to a certain activity or project you're working on.
Right now, Nepomuk is already used for tagging and rating across
applications, that is "attaching a string (tag) or a score to a file",
more use cases are coming up. Mandriva is probably the most advanced in
terms of the semantic desktop, have a look at this page to find out more:
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