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What is the Semantic Web?

June 19th, 2009

The twittering of #semtech2009 got me pretty frustrated – seems like the “big O” Ontology story was way too prevalent, and while linked data had a good showing, the relationships between linking and ontologies seemed to be forgotten a lot.  It motivated me to write up some thoughts on this on my Nature blog site in a blog entry entitled “What is the Semantic Web really all about” -- I look forward to your comments there or here…

Jim H

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  1. June 19th, 2009 at 06:42 | #1

    Nice writeup. I think btw an entirely independent use of the phrase “Semantic Web” was in this 1997 survey, http://www.lucifer.com/~sasha/articles/SemanticWeb.html … but which covers many of the technologies of that time, including SHOE, Dublin Core, KIF and MCF. When I think of the history of the SW effort, I think of it in terms of these parallel streams of activity all coming together, essentially in the period 1996-2001. Today’s SW has many ancestors, all of which fed in important ways into the current landscape. While it’s humbling to realise how many modern themes (typed links, SKOS, FOAF, SPARQL and D2RQ, …) were quite clearly anticipated in the original Web proposal, http://www.w3.org/History/1989/proposal.html and the Cern’94 talk, in terms of cause-effect history I’d also include MCF and PICS on equal footing with SW’s other ancestors. MCF because it showed a mainstream tech company (originally Apple, then Netscape) pushing a grassroots adoption of this class of tech direct to webmasters (grassroots adoption of Apple’s MCF was impressive), while still being grounded in formalist thinking – see http://www.guha.com/mcf/wp.html. And PICS because it established some fundamentally decentralist principles and concerns for machine-readable content labels: different parties create different schemes, different label bureaus redistribute different claims, and client side rule-interpreters mediate between that environment and the needs of users, with the whole thing supported by digital signatures. The interaction between the PICS/PICS-NG, MCF and Dublin Core efforts gave us RDF, which by 2000 was looking like it could turn out to be a betamax to XML’s VHS. The DAML programme arrived just in time, and the themes and concerns and styles of these different strands, plus those of the XML community, give today’s Semantic Web scene it’s own distinctive and peculiar feel. The effect of all those (often DARPA-funded) “logicians and ontologists” turning up in the RDF community was quite noticable. They helped bring some much needed clarity to discussion of the problems with the RDF’99 Recommendation, without which the specs would still be evocative and intriguing rather than actually implementable. At the same time there was some overshadowing of the Webby for a while, although that I think is a largely historical problem now. We will always have these multiple strands and I think the community is all the stronger for it. And the Web’s just the thing that brings us all together…

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  2. July 12th, 2009 at 05:05 | #2

    Great information really helps you understand what the semantic web is.

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  3. February 15th, 2012 at 07:50 | #3

    There’s also what we called “The Social Semantic Web” which is the coming together of the Social Web and the Semantic Web. The Social Web is one evolution of the Web where we have moved from individuals posting information-type web pages to multiple people interacting on each page. In parallel, we’ve seen efforts to add more semantics to web pages, things like microformats and microdata, Google Rich Snippets and schema.org, and RDF, a Semantic Web standard from the W3C. This allows us to move from pages that are purely syntactic (e.g. defining styles for how to display text, headings, etc.) to semantic (describing the things mentioned in a web page).

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