Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Seminal on The Semantic

Before Tim O'Reilly, there was Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who often credited as the creator of the Internet. However, what many do not know is that Berners-Lee also preceded many so-called Web 2.0 experts when he had envisioned the Semantic Web (or as many refer to it synonymously as "Web 3.0"). While O'Reilly came along in 2004 to coin Web 2.0, Berners-Lee had long ago created the conceptual foundations in an article co-produced with James Hendler and Ora Lassila, titled The Semantic Web in Scientific American in 2001. Although librarians and information professionals don't need to know the specifics behind the coding technology behind the Semantic Web (that would be asking too much, for much of it is still in development), it is important to have a good grasp of the concepts and a strong understanding of the history and evolution of the Web. Thus, it is important to know that the Semantic Web will be defined by five concepts:

(1) Expressing Meaning - Bring structure to the meaningful content of Web pages, creating an environment where software agents roaming from page to page can readily carry out sophisticated tasks for users. Semantic Web is not a separate Web but an extension of the current one, in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation.

(2) Knowledge Representation - For Web 3.0 to function, computers must have access to structured collections of information and sets of inference rules that they can use to conduct automated reasoning: this is where XML and RDF comes in, but are they only preliminary languages?

(3) Ontologies - But for a program that wants to compare or combine information across two databases, it has to know what two terms are being used to mean the same thing. This means that the program must have a way to discover common meanings for whatever database it encounters. Hence, an ontology has a taxonomy and a set of inference rules.

(4) Agents - The real power of the Semantic Web will be the programs that actually collect Web content from diverse sources, process the information and exchange the results with other programs. Thus, whereas Web 2.0 is about applications, the Semantic Web will be about services.

(5) Evolution of Knowledge - The Semantic Web is not merely a tool for conducting individual tasks; rather, its ultimate goal is to advance the evolution of human knowledge as a whole. Whereas human endeavour is caught between the eternal struggle of small groups acting independently and the need to mesh with the greater community, the Semantic Web is a process of joining together subcultures when a wider common language is needed.

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