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Tue, 2007-Oct-30

XML Semantic Web

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I'm having a go at defining some conventions suitable for developing a . The existing "non-semantic" web is already a first stage Semantic Web. We are able to exchange semantics about document structure, and enough other basic things for humans to be able to drive it. The next stage of a Semantic Web is to produce a small set of widely-accepted schemas for conveying generally-applicable information, along the lines of what Microformats are doing in HTML. Perhaps the microformats level is a genuine next step in and of itself: People taking machines along for the ride on the Web. After that, we want to start to see machines operating more autonomously over time. I see RDF has having failed to deliver in this area, with no prospect of succeeding.

I see the failure of RDF as two-fold:

  1. The number of xml namespaces in a typical RDF document adds complexity disproportionate to its benefits, and limits independent evolution and extension of schemas
  2. The fluid document structure (especially in the XML representation) makes understanding, transformation, copy-and-paste, and a number of other beneficial activities significantly more difficult than with plain XML document types.

For some time I have felt that well-defined XML document types are superior to similarly-defined RDF schemas. I have started writing up a set of conventions for well-structured XML documents. I think these conventions yield may of the benefits that RDF is designed to bring about, but also respect the lessons learned from existing Web document types.

Have at it, let me know what you think. I'll try to get back to it soon to endorse a (very) few types that I find useful in day-to-day operations.