semantic web is webby data

I often been puzzled why people write “The Semantic Web is AI” and “The Semantic Web is a top-down design” and “The Semantic Web is Ontologies”. As far as I’m concerned, all of those are bogus. I think I’ve worked out why they write this – they aren’t talking to anyone actually working directly on the technologies.

The semantic web is: a webby way to link data. That is all.

Everything beyond that is entirely optional fluff: data vs metadata, syntaxes, ontologies, query languages, rules, logic, …

This is my “lowercase” semantic web and the basis of what I have in running production code right now.

I’ll probably use that as my theme when I speak about A Little Semantics Can Go a Long Way on the panel at the Semantic Technology Conference in San Jose in May. ( I’ll also be at WWW2007 in Banff, Canada and XTech 2007 in Paris. )

  • tim finin

    Well put.

    And I say that as someone who comes to the semantic web from the AI/ontology/rules/KR part of the community.

    The most important word in “The Semantic Web” is the last one.

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  • jim hendler

    “A little semantics goes a long way,” a phrase which I mentioned in my ISWC keynote was the slogan on my research group’s SHOE t-shirts (ca 1998), is right – but be careful. I point you at my blog post ( “A little is not none” — it is just as wrong to say the SW has no AI component, no top down design potential, or no ontologies, as it is to say that it is only those things. It is a webby way to link data, but it is key to note that linking data often requires some sort of semantic agreemet – and that is why we needed to invent RDFS and OWL to make it happen… so remember, a little is not none (maybe I should get some new t-shirts made??) -Jim Hendler

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  • Ora Lassila

    This post made me do some soul searching about the Semantic Web. I don’t think I agree fully: Yes, Semantic Web is about linking data, but that’s not *all*. There is also the “vision” about where we would like information technologies to go in the future, and that’s certainly not realized only by easy linking of data (sorry to put it simplistically). I put more in a blog post of my own:

  • Jeff Pollock

    I too am distressed at the volume of FUD (fear uncertainty doubt) that Web 2.0 pundits and media have placed upon the semantic web, but we shouldn’t swing the pendulum too far away from the attributes that make the semantic web unique, simply to pacify the masses who would wish away RDF/OWL in favor of AJAX/Wikis (apples for oranges). To me, the power of SemWeb technologies is grounded in the computational heritage of these languages (AI = frames, graphs, semantic nets) whilst the universality of their utility is based in their exchange protocols (URI’s). It’s the job of we who build commercial tools for the technology to make it ever simpler for the masses to use. After all, the SemWeb is more analogous to the “object revolution” for software programming than it is to the “markup revolution” for HTML web content. […the implication is that it *shouldn’t* or *needn’t* be easy enough for a 5 yr old for it to become a resounding success]

  • yaxu

    Unless you actually define the term “webby data” then you’re not contributing anything at all.

  • Glenn Takanishi

    Webby way to link data is everything … especially when translated into how we humans fundamentally think. When I use Google to search, I can spend an hour entering keywords which has the effect of forming navigation paths of my thought processes. Extrapolate this to how we use and how the new Web tools like Technorati, YouTube, etc help us navigate along our paths of interests. It’s “AI” underneath.

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