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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: Jean-Luc Delatre <jld@club-internet.fr>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 16:47:16 +0200
Message-ID: <40D1AEF4.E33D5BD5@club-internet.fr>
To: Peter Crowther <Peter.Crowther@melandra.com>
Cc: 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, irlist-editor@acm.org, ontoweb-list@www1-c703.uibk.ac.at, daml-all@daml.org, semanticweb@yahoogroups.com

Oooh... Thanks Peter,

I could not dream of a more appropriate testimony
to highlight some (only some...) trouble spots
about the Semantic Web.

> 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.

Entirely true, ontologies DO fit in a closed and STABLE
environment, but that is not what the Semantic Web is about.
It is aiming at a worldwide, all-encompassing way of exchanging knowledge, not closed, not stable.
(am I wrong with this?)

> 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.

I agree with this too, size per se is not the problem (witness the Google file system:  http://blog.topix.net/archives/000016.html)
storage capacity and chip performance are likely to increase along the growing volume and roughly keep the fit.
Logic is the problem, uncertainty, truth maintenance and defeasible inferences are NOT properly solved yet.
This is just glossed over or may be not seen at all by the hypsters, but sooner or later these problems will hit and will hit hard.

> 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.

Oh! its so sweet to reinvent the wheel 
such as to claim "We did it all"
Not a good idea really: http://cliki.tunes.org/TUNES%20vs%20the%20WWW

> 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.

Yes, yes, "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.

Of course there will be usefull byproducts,
some of them may be *really* usefull but they will show
as usual at the most unexpected places.

But the "Grand Plan" does not stand and it is *this* which
is sold, like the "new economy" of 1999-2000 ;-))

Best regards,

-- Jean-Luc Delatre
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"In a way, math isn't the art of answering mathematical questions,
 it is the art of asking the right questions"  -- Gregory Chaitin
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 http://perso.club-internet.fr/jld/  -- GSM: +33 6 11 24 06 29
Received on Thursday, 17 June 2004 10:34:18 GMT

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