Prepare now for Semantic Web, urges Berners-Lee

Companies should start organising their data for the advent of the Semantic Web, Tim Berners-Lee has urged.

Companies should start organising their data for the advent of the Semantic Web, Tim Berners-Lee has urged.

The inventor of the World Wide Web told Computer Weekly that preparing for the Semantic Web and considering what implications it might have would help organisations overcome some of the issues associated with the web's current use in business.

He said the onslaught of spam was a potent indicator of why the Semantic Web development programme he leads at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was so necessary. "Spam works by offering links exchange simply because this carries attention and attention is money - economics and the web are clearly linked," he said.

All that has changed from when the web was built, said Berners-Lee, was that in the early days the exchange of links containing information was assumed to be between trusted sources.

In response to the reality of unlimited linking between anyone, the W3C is developing protocols to communicate context around those links.

"There is a propensity to worry about the bad guys out there, but there is also huge opportunity," said Berners-Lee. "Within the enterprise, you already have a friendly environment to share data effectively behind the firewall."

Berners-Lee said the key to extending the context of trusted information via the web was the creation of a data model for describing objects, or "tags instead of words". He said this involved developing the Resource Description Framework and Web Ontology Language, which the W3C was working on.

"There are lots of technology bits in the roadmap, including cryptographic security and more sophisticated, trusted protocols," said Berners-Lee.

"We can develop ontologies of terms that will shape the Semantic Web. Some terms everybody will share to make common, such as a link to describe colour using a Pantone reference, for instance. Others need developing by communities.

"The aerospace industry, for example, could get together and decide the specific terms it will need to define, as well as using terms from a global, shared ontology. If I am a member of many groups, I can use their shared ontologies to help their spread across communities. Everybody will need to do their bit."

Berners-Lee was visiting the UK to address the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton.

What is the Semantic Web?

The Semantic Web is an evolving extension of the World Wide Web in which web content can be expressed not only 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.

Source: World Wide Web Consortium

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