The semantic web, a network of machine-readable information, is a proven concept and organisations should begin exploring how to use it.
That was a message from a panel of luminaries from academia and commerce at the World Wide Web Consortium’s conference.
Currently, HTML pages on the web are designed to be read by humans, and information is found using internet search engines. But Clare Hart, executive vice-president in the enterprise media group at Dow Jones, said searching for information was not a good use of people’s time.
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With changes under way on the web, she said, “Individuals will [in future] be able to use their PC or mobile device to access information in a seamless way, based on who they are.”
Enterprises are looking at information strategies, Hart said. “Search engines are one component and will sit alongside the rich applications enterprises need to conduct business.”
Some of this information will arise from data tagging standards that are being developed for the web. The concept called the semantic web is now ready for software companies and users to start implementing.
Jim Hendler, a professor at the University of Maryland and the author of the original semantic web paper, said, “We originally had a 10-year vision, but a lot of the pieces [required] fell into place sooner than I expected.”
Companies can get started now, according to web inventor Tim Berners-Lee. With relatively little investment, using experimental, commercial open source tools, he said it was possible for an IT director to demonstrate the business value of semantic web techniques.
He said the return on investment of the semantic web was the ability to enable the company to be reactive, using applications that can draw on semantic web data, in order to improve decision-making.
However, for the semantic web to go mainstream, businesses will have to categorise their information using agreed vocabularies known as ontologies, according to Richard Benjamins, director for research and development at Isoco, a spin-off from the Spanish National Research Council, which specialises in the semantic web.
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