Tuesday, February 26, 2008

In the beginning

The Web consists primarily of linked text documents, with very little semantic structure beyond the natural language text within the Web documents themselves. Search engines do a great job of finding documents based on keywords, but without regard to the true meaning of those words. Granted, specialized applications can be custom designed for the specific structured layout of some web pages (e.g., price comparison buying agents), or hard-wired for the service interfaces of specific web sites, but that says that meaning is in the eye of the beholder and not represented in the Web documents themselves.

The intent of the Semantic Web is to represent information in a common, structured format that can easily be processed by a wide range of applications, without those applications needing to be custom written for the specific data format or document source.

At least, that is the promise.

Alas, execution on that promise remains incomplete.

This blog is dedicated to exploring the premises and promises of the Semantic Web and how they can either be tied back to real users and real-world applications, or if there are gaps, exploring the nature of those semantic gaps and seeking approaches to bridge those semantic gaps with the ultimate goal of extricating ourselves from the semantic abyss.

I am optimistic that we can achieve success on at least some fronts, but at this stage I am unable to promise that "They all lived happily ever after."

But before we can make even modest progress, first we must gaze down into the semantic abyss.

-- Jack Krupansky


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