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Re: How will the semantic web emerge: SPARQL end point and $$

From: Danny Ayers <danny.ayers@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2005 20:18:33 +0100
Message-ID: <1f2ed5cd0512211118k2816429fj1896c91168325001@mail.gmail.com>
To: Joshua Allen <joshuaa@microsoft.com>
Cc: Henry Story <henry.story@bblfish.net>, tim.glover@bt.com, fugu13@mac.com, fmanola@acm.org, semantic-web@w3.org
I'm not sure I've caught all of the thread(s) but this is probably a
good point for my 0.02.

First off, I like the "emerge" in the subject line. I reckon it's
pretty likely that some kind of data web is an inevitable emergent
property of a doc-oriented web. Whether it uses Semantic Web
technologies is another matter. I personally think that's reasonably
likely. A graph-shaped data model is a must-have for a data web;
layerable, logic-based schemas/ontologies are probably the only way of
sanely managing the kind of diversity that's to be expected. The W3C
specs are available...

What I'm not so sure about with the original subject field is the
implication that the emergence will have a clear, single originating
path. There's the SPARQL endpoint side that Henry's talking about - if
one or two big players provided such things, that could be a major
catalyst. But equally, let's say someone wanted to write a desktop
interface using WinFS to Google Base - RDF could well be in the frame,
and such a tool could be popular. I would be very surprised if there
weren't a few commercial concerns with their eye on PiggyBank. Or what
about an enterprise management system using Oracle's new RDF store?
Any of these islands /could/ turn viral, or may we'll just see gradual
bridge-building.

On 12/21/05, Joshua Allen <joshuaa@microsoft.com> wrote:
> > worth looking at this. If I were Barnes and Noble of la FNAC I would
> > try this out, before Amazon gets there.
>
> This motivation only works if there is credible evidence that Amazon is preparing to launch SPARQL endpoints, though.  And even then, only if there is evidence that such endpoints would see broad adoption.
>
> > Once more groups get their SPARQL end points out, I forsee that major
> > players will wish to standardise on some ontologies to:
>
> I believe we have enough specific evidence to counter this prediction already.  Amazon has already exposed its business data in a variety of flavors:
>
> 1) Web services with loose contract (POX over HTTP)
> 2) Intermediate format -- RSS using some simple, well-known extensions
> 3) Web services using tighter schema (SOAP and WSDL)
>
> Can you guess the relative adoption of each style?  This is a pattern we see played out across the industry.

The clearest pattern is that when people are willing to expose their
data, they're prepared to do so in a variety of ways. I'm not going to
hold my breath for a big player to expose a SPARQL endpoint, but I
wouldn't rule it out either.

All three approaches you list can be pretty straightforward for simple
systems, but get increasingly difficult when it comes to more complex
systems. None of them go very far into the kind of data integration
capability offered by SW tech.

To take a specific case, I've been amazed for a long time that
no-one's exploited the potential for using an RDF base for a biggish
RSS-oriented system, maybe for blog search or whatever. The benefits
are pretty obvious were one to emerge. Probable explanations for the
absence of such a service are the relative immaturity of RDF/OWL tools
and the (not unrelated) general unfamiliarity amongst developers of
the techniques. But there have been continuing significant steps
forward on both counts.

There's enough going on in industry (bits) and academia (*lots*) to
suggest that the SW idea has got a strong foothold. Probably more
significant, looking around at developments on the Web in the wild
(through my tinted lenses ;-), there's a definite tendency towards
Semantic Web-like approaches. A good example is the microformats and
StructuredBlogging initiatives, both making explicit data available on
the web. Ok, a document format is used as a container, and the
formatted data is traditional domain-specific, but this is a good way
past scraping. It is real data on the web.

If the intuition that the SW technologies offer significant advantages
is correct, then I think we're long past the tipping point. That was a
hard sentence to put together - significant advantages over what?
Advantages over existing web techniques..? But virtually all existing
web techniques  (the best practice kind anyway) appear in the SW
stack. It's not either-or.

Perhaps major growth it will be triggered by SPARQL endpoints or
people trying to integrate diverse microformat data. I'm not sure the
environment is a tinderbox yet, and it may be another decade before
the web looks remotely semantic. But the subject line question could
maybe be flipped over: how will the semantic web *not* emerge?

Cheers,
Danny.

--

http://dannyayers.com
Received on Wednesday, 21 December 2005 19:19:26 GMT

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