Days: it’s a blog thing

Since August, 2001. Surely it can’t last…

Sunday, August 04, 2002 ↓


An article in Scientific American, The Semantic Web by Tim Berners-Lee, James Hendler and Ora Lassila, is the most illuminating introduction I’ve seen so far on the topic. It neatly describes the relationship between XML, RDF, URIs and ontologies in making resources understandable and open to manipulation by machines for the benefit of human users.

Perhaps perversely, I see one of the things that in the authors’ eyes the semantic web overcomes, as being one of the greatest obstacles to its development:

Human endeavor is caught in an eternal tension between the effectiveness of small groups acting independently and the need to mesh with the wider community. A small group can innovate rapidly and efficiently, but this produces a subculture whose concepts are not understood by others. Coordinating actions across a large group, however, is painfully slow and takes an enormous amount of communication. The world works across the spectrum between these extremes, with a tendency to start small—from the personal idea—and move toward a wider understanding over time.

The semantic web may well have a unifying logical language, but (X)HTML and CSS are standardised (therefore unifying) and logical (enough), yet look at the trouble we’ve experienced in getting just one class of “agent” — graphical web browsers — to understand them. A successful semantic web would seem to require countless agents properly responding to the “rules” set out in its unifying logical language. But maybe that isn’t a valid concern — certainly most of the problems with browsers, HTML and CSS relate to how the browsers display information, whereas agents for the semantic web will be more concerned with understanding and processing it: display, or any other means of delivering the result to humans, will be a secondary issue.

Anyway, it will be great when it happens.

Posted at 9:28 AM

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