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Re: Non SemWeb uses of RDF

From: Frank Manola <fmanola@acm.org>
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004 16:38:19 -0500
Message-ID: <41C351CB.6050806@acm.org>
To: Brian Manley <manleyr@telcordia.com>
CC: www-rdf-interest@w3.org

Hi Brian--

Some possibly not very helpful comments:

I think collecting the information you're after (and keeping that 
information updated) would be a useful activity in the context of this 
group, since it's the sort of question I've heard a lot (and I imagine 
others on the list have too).  However, when I've tried to answer this 
sort of question in the past, I've always had to ask a couple of 
questions myself (just to make sure we're talking the same language), 
namely:

(a) how do you define a "non semantic web application" (or 
alternatively, how do you define a "semantic web application")?

(b) how do you define a "business application"?

To illustrate why I think those questions are relevant (and it would be 
helpful to have some common understanding), Section 6.5 of the RDF 
Primer describes an RDF-based language used by the electric power 
industry in the US to exchange power system models (for purposes of 
managing flow in the electricity grid).  I don't know that I'd describe 
that as a "semantic web application", since I doubt that any of those 
descriptions ever appear on the web (at least I've never found any), 
even though it uses RDF, a "semantic web language" (does that make it a 
"semantic web application"?).  On the other hand, electric power 
generation is certainly a business (so are the places where lots of the 
bioinformatics work is being applied), but lots of people wouldn't think 
of those sorts of "back room" technology applications as being "business 
applications" either.  As another example, I've also run across an 
RDF-based spec to enable the exchange of real estate investment 
information (see http://www.dataconsortium.org/index.html), although I 
don't know how much these specs are being used.  Real estate is 
certainly a business, but once again it's not clear this type of 
information will necessarily appear on the web, and lots of people 
wouldn't think of this kind of "technical" spec as being a "business 
application".  So what is?  General ledger?  HR?  CRM?

At the same time, there's clearly lots of activity in practically every 
area that anyone would accept as a "business application" in trying to 
apply straight XML (some of these groups also define equivalent RDF 
Schemas, e.g. some of the OASIS groups in various areas).  And I think 
that a lot of that information (together with information in relational 
databases) will eventually wind up being, in effect, interpreted as RDF 
(or, if you prefer, as simple statements about various objects or 
resources using something like URIs for disambiguation) when 
larger-scale merging of information from those various languages becomes 
necessary, whether that information is literally expressed in RDF or 
not.  When this will happen is, as you'd expect, quite literally a 
"business decision", and it depends a lot on the assessment in 
individual application domains of when the cost/benefit analysis of 
applying these technologies becomes (or at least appears!) favorable. 
It isn't going to happen all at once, or at the same rate in all 
application areas.

I look forward myself to seeing other replies.

--Frank

Brian Manley wrote:
> All,
> 
> I'm fairly new to RDF, and I'm curious to learn the level to which RDF is being adopted in non semantic web related applications. I find references to its use in bioinformatics, library science, knowledge management and other areas. But what I'm not seeing is much use of RDF in business applications (enterprise or SMB) , consumer-focused applications ( PIMs, personal collection management, etc ) or even systems integration products.
> 
> If it is being used, can you site some examples? If it's not being used much outside of the SW movement, why do you think that is?
> 
> Any insight would be appreciated.
> 
> Regards,
> Brian
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
Received on Friday, 17 December 2004 21:32:36 GMT

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