Observations on the Semantic Web
A business-oriented description of the Semantic Web is: "... an extension of the current [Web], in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation." A more technical description of the Semantic Web emphasizes the need to have interoperability between software programs on a semantic level, and not just at a precompiled-syntax level.
Research analysts have been reporting more and more on the semantic web community (including the ontology research field and reasoning on the web) this last year. Their interest in this topic is triggered by the standardization efforts of the semantic web community at the W3C and the OMG.
Some of these new standardization efforts include augmenting ontology languages with rules. The question whether the Semantic Web should be augmented to support behavior specification (with rules) has been subject to debate. It looks like the answer is now a definitive "yes."
What are the differences or similarities between the rules of the Semantic Web and the rules of the Business?
Where a business rules analyst creates a fact model, the semantic web community creates an ontology. Where a business rules analyst writes down business rules in natural language, the semantic web community writes derivations in a formal language.
It seems to me that the business rules community and semantic web community talk about the same things, but this talk is by people with different backgrounds. The business rules community is driven by the practical experiences of business people and business consultants, while the semantic web community is a vision of scientists driven by (mostly) scientific publications.
If this observation is true, it is important for there to be more understanding of each other's work so that we can end up with a 'semantic business' that supports a practical approach to business problems and that is supported by a long-term vision. If the business rules community and the semantic web community do talk about different things, then we need to get a better understanding of the bounderies between the two communities so that we can develop standard transformations or processes for crossing these bounderies.
My next column will have more observations on the differences or similarities between the Semantic Web and the Business Rules Approach.
 Berners-Lee, James Hendler and Ora Lassila, "The Semantic Web," Scientific American, May 17, 2001. URL: http://www.sciam.com
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