W3C recommends Semantic Web specs

The Web's leading standards group finalizes two drafts at the core of its ambitious effort to let computers glean meaning from the documents they help create, store and transfer.

The Web's leading standards group finalized two drafts at the core of its ambitious effort to let computers glean meaning from the documents they help create, store and transfer.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on Tuesday will publish recommendations for the Resource Definition Framework (RDF) and the Web Ontology Language (OWL), both key parts of its Semantic Web project.

The Semantic Web has stirred controversy in the past among critics, who liken it to failed artificial intelligence schemes and suspect it of draining W3C resources from more pressing commercial projects like those defining Web services technologies.

In recent years the W3C has stepped up its Web services efforts, and with the new releases, the consortium appears to answer the Semantic Web's critics directly, calling the project a "commercial-grade infrastructure for sharing data on the Web."

"The Semantic Web is no longer a research project," W3C representative Janet Daly said in an interview. "With two foundational technologies becoming standards, and with testimonials from major industry players who are implementing RDF and OWL in enterprise-level applications, it's ready for prime time."

OWL, which reached its candidate recommendation status in August and became a proposed recommendation in December, represents detailed descriptions of content and helps computers "understand" their relationship to one another.

One implementation is at the National Cancer Institute, which uses OWL as the ontology language for its oncology thesaurus.

RDF, by contrast, standardizes a way to make simpler declarations. For example, it provides a way to establish various characteristics of a Web page including its author, the date it was written or published, and how it may be used or copied.

Creative Commons, which provides a way for Web authors to retain rights over their work, uses RDF to establish computer-readable licensing conditions.

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