Karthik Subramanian

Research promises to facilitate qualitative data on the Internet

  • Association with data to be the primary building block
  • Varsities, peer groups creating web ontologies

    CHENNAI: The world wide web (www) as we know it today is, undoubtedly, the greatest man-made repository of information, linking over 10 billion pages of information ranging from the profound to the inane. And just as one wonders if it can get any bigger, there is some silent yet critical research around the globe that promises to make it better.

    "The web of tomorrow will be about data and not documents," said Professor Wendy Hall, one of Britain's most recognised computer scientists and head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. She was in Chennai this week to deliver a lecture on the `Science of the Web' at the Indian Institute of Technology.

    Ms. Hall said the `Semantic Web' was based on the principle of how the human brain worked and would, hence, be an "artificially intelligent" system. "The human mind works on [the basis of] associations. The associations with data will form the primary building blocks for the Semantic Web. Today's www is built more on associations with documents."

    In a paper for the journal `IEEE Computer Society' that Ms. Hall co-authored with Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the www and director of World Wide Web Consortium, and Nigel Shadbolt of the University of Southampton, the Semantic Web is defined as a "web of actionable information derived through the semantic theory of interpreting symbols."

    But creating the Semantic Web is easier said than done. It requires a completely different set of building blocks such as protocols and standards. This is one reason why the Semantic Web has taken its time, Ms. Hall explained. Tim Berners Lee reportedly articulated it in 1994 during the very first World Wide Web conference.

    Ms. Hall said that universities and peer groups were already working on the building blocks. They were creating what are called `web ontologies' on various subjects. The ontologies would define the basic inter-operable data blocks that define the manner in which information would be packaged on the Semantic Web. To draw a parallel, this would be similar to how http (hypertext transfer protocol) defined the very first generation of the Web.

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