W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-rdf-logic@w3.org > May 2001

W3C will again cast pearls (was :RE: What do the ontologists want)

From: Danny Ayers <danny@panlanka.net>
Date: Fri, 18 May 2001 22:14:00 +0600
To: "Wilson, MD \(Michael\) " <M.D.Wilson@rl.ac.uk>
Cc: <www-rdf-logic@w3.org>, "'Dan Brickley'" <danbri@w3.org>

>In the early/mid 1990's the hypertext research community looked down on the
>web as having little innovation, but only taking established
>techniques from
>their research world. Doing something understood, but on a more global
>In the semantic web W3C must do the same thing. Take the KR and inference
>mechanisms that are understood and accepted from AI/logic programming and
>apply them on the global scale.
>If RDF or the Semantic Web start to demand innovative research developments
>in KR or inferencing, then there are the associated research risks. It is
>not appropriate for a W3C enterprise to take on those risks - the Semantic
>web should be treated by the KR and inference mechanism community with the
>same contempt that the hypertext research community treated the web in the
>early 1990's - nothing really new, just more global and robustly defined.

If the W3C isn't going to take research risks wherever they are needed, how
exactly is it going to facilitate anything - by its mere existence? By
hosting descriptions of (alleged) standards and being generally avuncular?
There's no denying the role that W3C can and has played in web technologies,
but it is also possible to misinterpret this role. The global web wasn't
actually created by the W3C, but by millions of people. The same will apply
with the 'Semantic Web' - ok, so the W3C may be able to catalyse things, and
assist with agreement on standards, but the momentum is already there for
web development. If the W3C ceased to exist tomorrow (or its approach was
deemed no longer relevant - entirely possible with the talk of a closed-door
Technical Architecture Group) the web will still get semantic - if an entity
like the W3C is required, the web will create one (if God didn't exist
etc...) - note the entities appearing in the open source community. Any
contempt visible from the KR communities would I suggest have a lot to do
with the W3's bloated sense of self-importance. (I'm not from KR, no axe to

>There were divisions in the hypertext community about alternative
>which that community well understood in 1990. There are divisions in the KR
>and inference mechanism community (e.g. neat vs scruffy) which that
>community well understands.
>W3C must respect the KR and inference mechanism community, understand those
>strong divisions and facilitate a standardisation of representation and
>inference to achieve the requirements in the Semantic Web Activity
>Statement. If experienced guys like Pat Hayes, and Drew McDermott see the
>Semantic Web as taking a course which is of detailed research
>interest (e.g.
>promiscuous reification without nested quantification) then W3C is doing
>something wrong.

If the W3C is listening, then it is doing something right. If.

>There is a further sensitivity, that industry is intended to adopt the
>Semantic Web products. The industrial world had no experience of
>hypertext in the early 1990s. There are many industrial managers who have
>memories of the 1980s expert system bandwagon when the lost a lot of money
>investing in technologies without a clear view of business benefits and the
>limits of those technologies. If the semantic web looks like a repeat of
>that, they will immediately ignore it. Again, W3C must be very clear about
>the exact purpose of the technologies it facilitates, and their robustness.

The omnipotent W3C will again cast pearls? Again this tells of corporate
arrogance - maybe 'Semantic Web' products will miss the mark, but web
products using semantics will be developed by industry for industry, whether
the W3C wishes to play a facilitating role in this or not.

Received on Friday, 18 May 2001 12:18:58 UTC

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