May 24, 2006 8:14 AM PDT

Semantic Web ready for mainstream use

The Semantic Web, where machines are able to read the contents of documents as readily as people can, now has all the standards and technologies it needs to succeed, according to W3C director Tim Berners-Lee.

Speaking at the World Wide Web 2006 conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Wednesday, Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, said it is now time for Web developers and content producers to start using semantic languages in addition to HTML.

A panel discussion titled "The next wave of the Web" kicked off the second day of the conference and marked the start of the technical conference content. Nigel Shadbolt, professor of computer science at the University of Southampton, told the conference attendees that what has been achieved with the Web so far is astounding by itself.

"We've produced an information infrastructure that few would have anticipated, with the possible exception of Vannevar Bush, but I think even he would have thought the scale of all this extraordinary. Fifty years ago, it might have appeared audacious, perhaps even inconceivable, that we could have built the kind of global infrastructure that now surrounds us," said Shadbolt.

However, the Web is still a mass of unstructured data with little to link groups of documents together, and no way for computers to manipulate the information in Web pages. The Semantic Web project aims to solve this problem by adding machine-readable content to the Web.

Berners-Lee said that building the stack of technologies needed to make the Semantic Web a reality has taken some time, but that we're now at the stage where the technologies can be used.

"We set out five years ago with the famous layer cake diagram, saying we're going to need RDF (resource description framework) as a data language, we're going to need an ontology language, we're going to need query and rules languages. We've been making our way through that," said Berners-Lee.

The last layer of that cake has recently been finalized. Berners-Lee explained that "the Query language, SPARQL, is now in the candidate recommendation phase, which means it's time to implement it. Without SPARQL, we could say the stack was fairly incomplete. Then suddenly we realized, 'Just imagine that you've been trying to sell relational database systems with just a data language but no query language.'"

This last step will be the biggest, because it will allow a link between the old Web and the new, Semantic Web. "SPARQL is going to make a huge difference, because behind a SPARQL server you can put a huge amount of existing data and then serve it up to the Semantic Web," said Berners-Lee.

The Semantic Web project is already ahead of its creators' original expectations. Jim Hendler, one of the authors of the original semantic Web proposal and also on the panel, told the conference that "when we were putting the article together we were thinking of it as a 10-year vision. My greatest surprise was that technologically a lot of these pieces fell into place sooner than I expected."

Jonathan Bennett of Builder UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
Semantic Web, Tim Berners-Lee, ontology, RDF, conference

20 comments

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Semantic [sic] Web
Anyone who belives that the Semantic Web architecture will now enable machines "to read the contents of documents as readily as people can" either has an extremely impoverished model of how people read (which is frequently the case when technologists overlook the psychological and/or sociological implications of their inventions) or has decided that people will readily adapt to that more impoverished behavior model in the interest of making the architecture work and enjoying its benefits (also known as not worrying about changing the maze when you can change the rat)!
Posted by ghostofitpast (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Semantic [sic] Web
Anyone who belives that the Semantic Web architecture will now enable machines "to read the contents of documents as readily as people can" either has an extremely impoverished model of how people read (which is frequently the case when technologists overlook the psychological and/or sociological implications of their inventions) or has decided that people will readily adapt to that more impoverished behavior model in the interest of making the architecture work and enjoying its benefits (also known as not worrying about changing the maze when you can change the rat)!
Posted by ghostofitpast (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Congress Take Note.
I want Congress on the Hill to take a special mental note to this article. Symantec has done what Microsoft and Google wouldn't even think about doing -- there trying to restructure the web to best suite it's entity -- Symantec!

The very Antivirus company that has failed in so many realms and has seen it's day in the hacker world; has now found it's way to create Symantec Coined machine readable language!

You's, one the Hill, do you now what this means? You should, because it lies in the Realms of Net Neutrality!

Don't get me wrong. I understand the need to continue to proceed in refining the web experience. But the web is Global, and to this point no one person or entity has coined the technologies that created it so boldly as Symantec.

So with that said: before you think about introducing yet another Net Neutrality Bill you need to consider EVERYTHING that goes into the WEB or World Wide Web as EVERYBODY knows it!

"EVERYTHING that goes into the WEB"

~Justin
www.Tech01.net
www.TechViewsToday.US
Posted by OneWithTech (196 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Uhhh...
Semantic, not Symantec, you idiot.
Posted by JoeCrow (83 comments )
Link Flag
hangover?
Next time try sleeping it off before you write.
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Link Flag
Congress Take Note.
I want Congress on the Hill to take a special mental note to this article. Symantec has done what Microsoft and Google wouldn't even think about doing -- there trying to restructure the web to best suite it's entity -- Symantec!

The very Antivirus company that has failed in so many realms and has seen it's day in the hacker world; has now found it's way to create Symantec Coined machine readable language!

You's, one the Hill, do you now what this means? You should, because it lies in the Realms of Net Neutrality!

Don't get me wrong. I understand the need to continue to proceed in refining the web experience. But the web is Global, and to this point no one person or entity has coined the technologies that created it so boldly as Symantec.

So with that said: before you think about introducing yet another Net Neutrality Bill you need to consider EVERYTHING that goes into the WEB or World Wide Web as EVERYBODY knows it!

"EVERYTHING that goes into the WEB"

~Justin
www.Tech01.net
www.TechViewsToday.US
Posted by OneWithTech (196 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Uhhh...
Semantic, not Symantec, you idiot.
Posted by JoeCrow (83 comments )
Link Flag
hangover?
Next time try sleeping it off before you write.
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Link Flag
Semantic
You get the point!
Posted by OneWithTech (196 comments )
Reply Link Flag
um, no.
No, I don't get your point. Semantics = The use of language in meaningful referents, both in word and sentence structures.
This has nothing WHATSOEVER to do with Symantec (you spelled the anti-virus company's name right), the anti-virus company.
And your link to net neutrality? Where did you pull that from? This announcement has as much to do with net neutrality as XML did when it was announced. It's just making incredible progress in how data is handled on the web.
Posted by dlee312 (15 comments )
Link Flag
Semantic
You get the point!
Posted by OneWithTech (196 comments )
Reply Link Flag
um, no.
No, I don't get your point. Semantics = The use of language in meaningful referents, both in word and sentence structures.
This has nothing WHATSOEVER to do with Symantec (you spelled the anti-virus company's name right), the anti-virus company.
And your link to net neutrality? Where did you pull that from? This announcement has as much to do with net neutrality as XML did when it was announced. It's just making incredible progress in how data is handled on the web.
Posted by dlee312 (15 comments )
Link Flag
The Solution is to Get a Mac
Macs don't need Symantec's Web. ;-)
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Solution is to Get a Mac
Macs don't need Symantec's Web. ;-)
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
good news for software integrator
It will spread around open source community soon ...
Posted by jacob.hfire (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
good news for software integrator
It will spread around open source community soon ...
Posted by jacob.hfire (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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