Thursday, February 7, 2008

Semantic Web, will the dream become true?

I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.
Tim Berners-Lee, 1999

Imagine the day, when you get a single customized answer to a certain question (e.g. What is the cheapest car in Europe?), when you ask the internet for a suitable clinic by entering the symptoms and your location and the internet responds with the predicted disease, clinic name and reservation times, and when every clinic and hospital all over the world share their data forming a large set of data through the internet, by using some software agents, imagine what can come out of billions of records. This is called the Semantic Web or Web 3.0.

According to Wikipedia, Semantic web is an extension of the World Wide Web in which web content can be expressed not only in natural language, but also in a format that can be read and used by software agents. In other words, Data from different sources should be represented in a common format that is readable by machines to easily integrate and combine them, also using natural languages to describe how data relates to real world objects. Today's WWW is said to be web of documents, that is data is controlled by applications and each application keeps it to itself, those applications interchange documents. Semantic Web is said to be web of data, because using common formats to represent data eases integrating it, and using natural language to relate it data to real world, allows data to be shared and reused across applications, enterprise and community boundaries. The Semantic Web is based on Resource Description Framework (RDF).

RDF is a family of World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) specifications originally designed as a metadata model but which has come to be used as a general method of modeling information, through a variety of syntax formats and notations. These syntax formats includes Notation 3 (N3), RDF/XML and N-Triples, while notations include RDF Schema (RDFS) and the Web Ontology Language (OWL).

Watch this video in which Tim Berners-Lee explains what is the Semantic Web.



Amr El-Helw said...

Well, Semantic Web was definitely an interesting idea when it first came out. Even my Masters thesis was related to that. However, unfortunately, people in the research community seem to agree that the idea of the Semantic Web is dead (or dying).

Personally, I think they are wrong. Semantic Web is already starting to happen although may be not in the same form envisioned by Tim Berners Lee. I don't think it will happen through RDF, Ontologies, etc., but may be through other means.

The closest thing to that today is Web Mashups. These are applications that combine data from more than one source into a single integrated tool (this is basically the definition of the Semantic Web). I wonder what you guys think.

mahmoud said...

RDF is now used as a container for FOAF(Friend Of A Friend), which i think will be used widely in the future in social networks. Google have launched their Social Graph API which is based on FOAF, i think it will encourage developers to use FOAF which in turn will enlarge the role of RDF in this area(Social Networks), I think RDF is suitable for representing simple data. I agree with you concerning Mashups, but i think they are suitable for more complex data.