Next Leg For W3C, Semantic Web

There’s a new Semantic Web group in town.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has formed the Rule Interchange Format (RIF) working group with the job of standardizing the rules that propel data across the Web, regardless of format.

Rules are a cornerstone of the Semantic Web, the idea that the Internet can be tapped for information as though it was one, giant database.

W3C said an RIF can trigger the integration and transformation of data from multiple sources.

RIF will provide a way to allow rules written for one application to be published, shared, merged and re-used in other applications and by other rule engines.

The idea is to improve the integration of data sources and the ability to draw new conclusions. For example, an RIF can help businesses find new customers, allow doctors to validate prescriptions, and enable banks to process loan applications.

Such functionality cuts to the heart of the Semantic Web, which aims to give data more meaning through the use of metadata . Metadata describes how, when and by whom a particular set of data was collected, and how that data is formatted.

By adding metadata to the current Web, the Semantic Web can allow people and machines to make use of data in ways that previously haven’t been possible.

W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee, an Internet pioneer and the chief architect behind the Semantic Web, said bringing together business rules vendors, users, rule language designers and developers to create a rules standard is “an important step in achieving the full power of the Semantic Web.”

W3C said the notion of RIF got jump started in April 2005 with a W3C workshop on rule languages for interoperability. This meeting drew over sixty organizations with an interest in building the Semantic Web, including IBM, Oracle, General Motors and others.

Interoperability is a key component of the Semantic Web, allowing users to cull data from multiple sources regardless of the technology used to create it, store it, or send it.

For the last few years, Berners-Lee has prophesied the Semantic Web as the next evolution of the Internet, and he and his band of computer engineers at the W3C have been laying the foundation.

Two bricks in that edifice include the Resource Description Framework (RDF) and the Web Ontology Language (OWL).

RDF allows users to piece together a variety of applications using XML for syntax and URLs for naming. OWL is a language to enable richer integration and interoperability of data across application boundaries.

With OWL, the W3C hopes to make it possible for information contained in documents to be processed by applications, rather than just presented to humans.

News Around the Web