Friday, February 23, 2007

The Semantic Web Cometh

Much has been said about the Semantic Web but let's look at accurate definitions of it and see what is being done to make it reality.
Wikipedia: "The Semantic Web is an evolving extension of the World Wide Web in which web content can not only be expressed in natural language, but also in a form that can be understood, interpreted and used by software agents, thus permitting them to find, share and integrate information more easily.[1] It derives from W3C director Tim Berners-Lee's vision of the Web as a universal medium for data, information, and knowledge exchange."

W3: "The Semantic Web is a web of data. There is lots of data we all use every day, and its not part of the web. I can see my bank statements on the web, and my photographs, and I can see my appointments in a calendar. But can I see my photos in a calendar to see what I was doing when I took them? Can I see bank statement lines in a calendar?"

"Why not? Because we don't have a web of data. Because data is controlled by applications, and each application keeps it to itself."

"The Semantic Web is about two things. It is about common formats for integration and combination of data drawn from diverse sources, where on the original Web mainly concentrated on the interchange of documents. It is also about language for recording how the data relates to real world objects. That allows a person, or a machine, to start off in one database, and then move through an unending set of databases which are connected not by wires but by being about the same thing."

In other words...Data transparency and the assignment of meaning to data.
One of the best working examples of how to do this is Protege
, the open source free ontology editor from Stamford University.
Seen below are two screens of a travel app depicting how to conduct a trip. Users not only can modify, connect and expand the nodes in interactive fashion to build knowledge based applications but also can share this content with any application/software agent able to read how Protege models this kind of information.

Because RDF and Owl (Resource Description Framework/Web Ontology Language.) statenents can be combined in sophisticated fashion, the abilty to build machine readible ontogies, rules, logic and proofs will become reality as shown by the W3 diagram below depicting the building blocks of the Semantic web.

The question to ask now is when the semantic web goes live, how long will it take for the web to become sentent because all the pieces to make it happen will be in place: Compute power, networks, file transparency and meaning. And the beat goes on...

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