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Re: Weakness in the Semantic Web?

From: Sandro Hawke <sandro@w3.org>
Date: Sat, 03 May 2003 07:51:19 -0400
Message-Id: <200305031151.h43BpJJA029983@roke.hawke.org>
To: "Roger L. Costello" <costello@mitre.org>
cc: www-rdf-interest@w3.org

> > ... a weakness in the Semantic Web, which is to say that there 
> > needs to be universal agreement on definitions or the process 
> > breaks down.  Even if there is universal agreement at a point
> > in time, definitions will evolve and mutate, as in regular 
> > language. 

(Can he phrase this as a question for the emerging FAQ [1]?)

Yes, this is a recognized problem.  I might phrase it as, "How do I
know what a particular URI denotes?" or "Can I be sure the meaning of
some URI wont change?"

There seem to be two main schools of thought on this, "gold standard"
semantics and "floating" semantics.  The terms come from analogy to
money: is a dollar's worth defined in terms of the worth of some
amount of gold, or is it defined by why you can buy with it?

For URIs, the "gold" is the human mind or minds which control the URI.
Whoever owns xmlns.com has the right to dictate what the FOAF terms
mean, because they start "http://xmlns.com/foaf/0.1/".  There is a
division within this view: is the meaning set by the _mind_ of the
owner or the _content_ they publish?

Floating semantics means that URIs mean whatever they mean by
consensus.  If there is no consensus around a URI, or you are afraid
the consensus might change, pick another URI.  I've explained this in
slightly more detail in talking about GoodURIs [2].

Some of us are highly motivated to find a good, unified solution here,
but none has emerged yet.

  -- sandro

[1] http://esw.w3.org/topic/FaqIdeas
[2] http://esw.w3.org/topic/GoodURIs
Received on Saturday, 3 May 2003 07:51:28 UTC

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