Saturday, November 22, 2003

Peter Van Dijck - Themes and metaphors in the semantic web discussion

Though I disagree with his analysis. I'm with Shirky on this. As I wrote here :

For one thing, I think the Semantic Web is meant to be MORE than merely adding machine readable markup to the web. XML is perfectly OK for that. No, the Semantic Web is about creating a yet higher level common language which allows machines to describe those machine readable markup formats.

So although Clay is wrong if he says that the semantic web requires a common ontology of all data. It certainly *does* require that all ontologies are defined in a common meta-language. And certainly one of the motivations for that, is that at some point in the future, it will be possible to write automatic translations between documents written using different ontologies.

In fact, it's hard to see any other motivation for the use of RDF schemas rather than XML DTDs.

And despite protestations to the contrary this really *is* what AI foundered on.

Another thought on this debate. Take something like FOAF which I consider to be an RDF success story. How dependent is that success on RDF? It seems to me that FOAF is a success because

a) software mediated social networking is a good idea

b) an open, distributed software mediated social network is also a good idea.

c) FOAF got first mover advantage, and everyone else is better off working with the standard than designing a competing one.

But how would things be different if FOAF was just a Dave Winer style XML hack? What is getting done that wouldn't be getting done?

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