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Re: [seweb-list] A discussion: Is semantic web an old fashioned idea?Is it bubble, unworthy or an interesting research area - Post your c omments

From: Amit Sheth <amit@cs.uga.edu>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 08:32:18 -0400
Message-ID: <40D18F52.4060900@cs.uga.edu>
To: Peter Crowther <Peter.Crowther@melandra.com>
Cc: Jean-Luc Delatre <jld@club-internet.fr>, kaw@swi.psy.uva.nl, acl@opus.cs.columbia.edu, www-rdf-interest@w3.org, www-annotation@w3.org, ontology@fipa.org, seweb-list@www1-c703.uibk.ac.at, semanticweb@yahoogroups.com, irlist-editor@acm.org, daml-all@daml.org, ontoweb-list@www1-c703.uibk.ac.at, amit@cs.uga.edu
I would almost echo Peter's comments. I started a company in 1999
focusing on semantic technology licensed from academia (LSDIS lab, Univ 
Semagix www.semagix.com (formerly Taalee/Voquette prior to 
acquision/merger). While the academic
research predates current coining and definition of "Semantic Web" (we 
called it
Semantic Information Brokering that included the Web as an 
infrastructure) many concepts,
approaches, and some representational guidelines are common.

As one of several such examples, Semagix is well beyond small startup 
with enterprise class product for semantic integration and
semantic analytics/discovery applications, customers (including several
Fortune 500] paying what an enterprise class software costs and
investing  what is necessary to deploy an enterprise class application.
Specifics are provided, for those interested, in:
"*Semantic* (*Web*) *Technology* In *Action*: Ontology Driven 
Information Systems for Search, Integration and Analysis" (copy at: 
An average and a mean ontology Semagix has developed has more than a million
entity/concept instances and more than a million relationship instances
(ie a large knowledge base gets used in its processing)
[Google: SWETO if interested in accessing a free public use ontlogy of 
this size].
And the heterogeneous documents/pages could be in millions
(or millions per day) and in one case,
with appropriate preprocessing/filtering, Web scale (billion+).

Other companies, such as Network Inference and Ontoprise, try to follow 
the current mainstream
view of Semantic Web even more closely, and we can have our aguments
on what scales, and whether complex query processing and other 
techniques deliver the results, or an inferencing (that may or may not 
scale today)
is critically important.  But as Peter says in has point relating to the 
all this will undergo more transformation (as TBL and others also 
but the process has started, and initial sucesses have been demonstrated.
In the process it is ok and quite likely that some research and VC funds 
got used
to retry techniques that did not work/scale earlier (they may scale now or
meet the same fate as in earlier winter, but there are too many choices
and several are succeeding), but it is important
not to throwout baby with the bath water.  What is important is not to limit
one's view with a single approach coming from AI, KR, NLP, DB, IR,
or to make up the mind on potential success or failure of a multidiscipinary
fields like semantics and semantic web with that one any one of the 
fields and associated techniques.

So as to keep this (relatively) short, some more views are in a SIGSEMIS 
interview: www.sigsemis.org

Amit Sheth

Peter Crowther wrote:

>>From: Jean-Luc Delatre [mailto:jld@club-internet.fr] 
>>Is the Semantic Web a realistic endeavour
>>or just a SCAM aimed at collecting funds 
>>from research, VCs or otherwise?
>Well... as someone who was on WebOnt and who founded a company (and got VC funding) based partly on ideas about the Semantic Web, I've got a few comments on that.  Note that I left the company (and WebOnt) at the end of 2002 due to health problems.  These are a fairly mixed bag, I know; let's see if they add some fuel to the fire.  Note that these are all personal opinions; they may or may not be the views of W3C, any other member of WebOnt, any member of any company I have ever worked for, or indeed any of my cats.
>1) Ontological and mixed ontology/rule systems have, in my opinion, shown that they can provide an appropriate basis for single-machine and intranet applications.  Public examples include PEN&PAD and AT&T's exchange configuration system (there are others).  Note that there is control over the application domain and the ontology in use in both of these applications.
>2) Practical approaches for dealing with larger and more complex ontologies (in particular) are being developed.  I don't expect ontology size to be a limiting factor, nor do I expect instance size to be a limiting factor *in practical systems*.  However, approaches to reasoning in the face of conflicting information are not as well developed, and this required part of the Semantic Web architecture is, in my view, woefully lacking.
>3) Far too much faith has been placed and is being placed on one architecture slide that Tim Berners-Lee created, showing RDF as the substrate for the entire Semantic Web.  This slide is at the root of many of the political and practical problems of the Semantic Web, and should have been ceremonially burned long ago.  Unfortunately, it's probably too late to change now - at least within the W3C-supported Semantic Web initiative.  RDF (any version) is far too limited in its expressive power to be a useful substrate, and the idea of building all the other layers on top of it is akin to trying to build a communications framework on Morse code when you have dots but no dashes.
>4) Whether or not the Semantic Web is itself a realistic endeavour (and I think that depends on your definition of 'Semantic Web' as I think almost everyone has their own view of what this means), the technologies and techniques developing for/around it are finding practical applications.  Commercial organisations with some very hard-nosed investment policies are putting money on good bets in this space, and there's increasing evidence that they'll get a good return.  *However*, typical applications at this time are intranet applications where there's good control over the problem domain.
>I don't think it's a scam, as useful technology is coming out of it.  However, the Semantic Web may be rather like ARPANET, where the technology went through several evolutions before it became stable, scaleable and useful outside a small group, and where it became widely used because it was an available means to an end rather than necessarily because it was any good in itself.
>Just my 0.02.
>		- Peter
>seweb-list mailing list
Received on Thursday, 17 June 2004 08:35:58 UTC

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