The Semantic Web

The Semantic Web refers to the W3C’s vision of a Web of linked data complementing the well known Web of documents. The goal of the Web of linked data is to enable computers to do more useful work and to develop systems that can support trusted interactions over the network.

The Semantic Web Standards supporting the Web of linked data include RDF, SPARQL, OWL, and SKOS. These standards build on a core Web Architecture and enable people to create data stores on the Web, build vocabularies (ontologies), and write rules for handling data. The common framework provided by the Semantic Web Standards allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries.

As a technology the Semantic Web provides real business value today. A good example of this is where the UK provides linked data as part of its open government strategy.

    The book Foundations of Semantic Web Technologies adds two additional themes to its description of the Semantic Web by highlighting that:
  • Building abstract models that capture the complexities of the world in terms of simpler ideas is part of what humans have always done
  • A more recent idea is the representation of knowledge in a way that allows machines to automatically come to reasonable conclusions.
    These two themes are also reflected in the two Wikipedia entries for the word ontology:
  • Ontology is defined as the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality as such, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.
  • The entry Ontology (information science) is computer science and information science specific. Here an ontology is a formal representation of knowledge as a set of concepts within a domain, and the relationships between those concepts. It is used to reason about the entities within that domain, and may be used to describe the domain.

    The Schemapedia Index of Schemas is a good place to find an ontology describing a particular domain.