Monday, May 25, 2009

Tim Berners-Lee's dream for the Web

Just for future reference, I have reproduced here Tim Berners-Lee's brief statement of his dream for the Web, including the Semantic Web and intelligent agents, from his book Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web. He starts out Chapter 12, Mind to Mind, by saying:

I have a dream for the Web... and it has two parts.

In the first part, the Web becomes a much more powerful means for collaboration between people. I have always imagined the information space as something to which everyone has immediate and intuitive access, and not just to browse, but to create. The initial WorldWideWeb program opened with an almost blank page, ready for the jottings of the user. Robert Cailliau and I had a great time with it, not because we were looking for a lot of stuff, but because we were writing and sharing our ideas. Furthermore, the dream of people-to-people communication through shared knowledge must be possible for groups of all sizes, interacting electronically with as much ease as they do now in person.

In the second part of the dream, collaborations extend to computers. Machines 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, leaving humans to provide the inspiration and intuition. The intelligent "agents" people have touted for ages will finally materialize. This machine-understandable Web will come about through the implementation of a series of technical advances and social agreements that are now beginning (and which I describe in the next chapter).

Once the two-part dream is reached, the Web will be a place where the whim of a human being and the reasoning of a machine coexist in an ideal, powerful mixture.

Realizing the dreeam will require a lot of nitty-gritty work. The Web is far from "done." It is in only a jumbled state of construction, and no matter how grand the dream, it has to be engineered piece by piece, with many of the pieces far from glamorous.

In short, he envisioned a Semantic Web of machines talking to machines comprising a machine-understandable Web.

It is also important to recognize that the Semantic Web is part of the overall Web dream and is not intended to be completely separate from part one of the Web.

Even eight years later, the book is just as relevant to the Web of today, and the future.

-- Jack Krupansky


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