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W3C Takes Major Step Towards Semantic Web

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Tech body W3C has released standards for building rule systems on the web and making searches smarter

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) yesterday released a major tranche of the new web programming standards it is developing to help make the web smarter.

The new Rule Interchange Format (RIF) standards for building rule systems on the web has been published to enable web developers to use declarative rules that allow for the integration and transformation of data from multiple sources in a distributed, transparent and scalable manner.

The RIF, which is itself made up of six separate new standards, was developed with the collaboration of business rules, logic programming and semantic web communities, in order to provide interoperability and portability between the many different systems using declarative technologies.

Making the web queryable

Inventor of the World Wide Web and MIT professor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who has led the work into developing the semantic web, has likened the project to turning the web from a massive searchable text file into a queryable database.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Yesterday’s publication included the RIF Core Dialect standard, which is designed to provide a standard, base level of functionality for interchange. The RIF Basic Logic Dialect and RIF Production Rule Dialect also extended functionality for matching two common classes of rule engines. And the RIF Framework for Logic Dialects describes how to extend RIF for use with a large class of systems.

The penultimate new standard, RIF Datatypes and Built-Ins 1.0, borrows heavily from the existing XQuery and XPath for a set of basic operations, and new RIF Resource Description Framework (RDF) and Web Ontology Language (OWL) Compatibility specifies how RIF works with RDF data and OWL ontologies.

Sandro Hawke, W3C systems architect, suggested: “You have your own parts of the database, so you can put whatever data out there that you want.”

Along with these standards, W3C also published five related documents: RIF Overview, RIF Test Cases, OWL 2 RL in RIF, RIF Combination with XML data, and RIF In RDF. The RIF Working Group also said it was preparing a primer and a revision of its outdated Use Cases and Requirements.

Hawke urged enterprises to get to grips with the semantic web as soon as posssible. “It’ll happen so quickly that no one will know,” he told MIT News. “They’ll [users] just notice the internet doing more cool things.”

The new UK government however, recently scrapped plans to fund a Web Science institute, that would have been led by Berners-Lee.