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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Semantic Web : From Web Of Documents To Web Of Data

(Via News.com)"Semantic Web" heralds the arrival of the Internet's next evolutionary phase. Tim Berners Lee, director W3C,compares its advent to the dawn of the Web 10 years ago. Just as the Web encompassed existing Internet technologies while adding its revolutionary system of hyperlinks,so,they claim,will the Semantic Web give birth to vastly more powerful ways of gleaning information from the world's computer network.Advocates of the Semantic Web say it will give birth to vastly more powerful ways of gleaning information from the world's computer network. The Semantic Web protocols aim to let computers distinguish different kinds of data. Armed with those distinctions, applications could more automatically trade information, for example between an online address book and a cell phone. A Web site could automatically reconfigure itself on the fly based on the needs of a particular visitor. Search engines could narrow down results with greater precision.
Berners-Lee said in an interview that the haze of confusion surrounding the Semantic Web activity has a familiar ring."It's akin to the responses I got years ago when I was trying to explain this Web thing to people, especially in industry," Berners-Lee said. "The idea of a universal information space with identifiers and one-way links was a paradigm shift. We didn't have the vocabulary then to describe the things we take for granted now with regards to the Web in general. So it is with the Semantic Web." "This is about connecting the data to its definition and context," said Eric Miller, Semantic Web activity lead for the W3C, in a Tuesday keynote address to several hundred conference participants. "We're moving from a Web of documents to a Web of data. The W3C acknowledges that existing technologies already satisfy some of the needs the Semantic Web is designed to fill. One is the consortium's XML recommendation for creating highly descriptive and computer-friendly mark-up languages. Others lie in rapidly evolving database management systems. The new technology is envisioned as a comprehensive shift in the way data is exposed to the Web. "When a large enterprise designs lots of database schemas and XML schemas, the designers are making arbitrary design choices about exactly how to build the system," Berners-Lee said. "These choices have no actual connection to the real application, yet they are baked into the system. Anyone who uses the data has to know what these decisions are." Key goals for the Semantic Web architects include reuse of data and what backers call "recombinant effects." They hope that by letting computers digest and exchange information about context and meaning- a word that raises the hackles of artificial intelligence critics--they will allow data to survive the systems where it originated and traverse different applications as easily as browsers traverse the Web's billions of pages today. As that data takes on a virtual life of its own, it could be exploited and combined in unexpected and unexpectedly profitable ways. "The really exciting thing isn't that you can merge your own data between applications-that's like links on your own Web site,"Berners-Lee said. "The really exciting thing happens when others have their data in a mergeable format and make it available. When that public information becomes mergeable, we're in for the next, very pronounced stage of Web evolution."

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