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Perhaps protocols/interfaces are like restrictive adjectival phrases, and metadata like non-restrictive.

Just in case you don't know: Restrictive clauses limit the possible meaning of a preceding subject, whereas non-restrictive clauses tell something about a preceding subject, but do not limit its meaning.

Example of restrictive use: The suspect in the lineup who has red hair committed the crime.

Example of non-restrictive use: The suspect in the lineup, who owns a red car, committed the crime.

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