W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > semantic-web@w3.org > September 2009

Vocabulary re-use

From: Aaron Rubinstein <arubinst@library.umass.edu>
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 2009 16:30:51 -0400
Message-ID: <4AC11CFB.6010801@library.umass.edu>
To: semantic-web@w3c.org
I'm rather new to Semantic Web technologies and have yet to get my head 
around one particular issue.  There seems to be some debate about when 
it's appropriate to create a domain specific vocabulary or when it's 
best to reuse or extend an existing vocabulary.  It strikes me as 
important for widespread adoption of Semantic Web technologies to not 
duplicate effort and confuse data publishers by creating different 
vocabularies for similar concepts/domains.  On the other hand, it seems 
inherent to the nature of the Web to be able to describe knowledge and 
present data in any way one pleases, allowing for the greatest diversity 
of view points and opinions.  I suppose part of my question is, what 
should be a general rule for deciding when to extend versus when to 
create from scratch?  Is it as simple as:

1.  Search existing vocabularies.

2.  If a relevant vocabulary exists, use it.

3.  If there is a close match, extend it using terms specific to your 

4.  If there are no vocabularies that can come close to describing your 
domain, create your own using RDFS/OWL.

The other part of my question is: does it matter?  Can the Semantic Web 
support a plethora of similar but distinct vocabularies as long as 
applications are 'smart' enough to interpret the ontology and make 
inferences accordingly?

These questions arise, to a certain extent, out of what seems like a 
prevalent practice to convert existing encoding standards from certain 
domains that are described using XML Schemas into RDF using RDFS and 
OWL, without much awareness of existing ontologies that might suit the 
needs of the domain just as well.  In a nutshell, is this OK or is it 
bad for the Semantic Web?

Many thanks for considering my questions.


Aaron Rubinstein
Received on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 06:42:40 UTC

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