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Whither the world wide web?

Tim Berners-Lee lays out his vision for the internet

Father of the internet Tim Berners-Lee addressed the Royal Society in London earlier this week, explaining what he sees as the future of the world wide web. He outlined what the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) is calling the 'semantic web', an enhancement which will allow for far greater access to online data.

According to Berners-Lee, while the web in its present form gives us phenomenal access to documents, finding and making use of data within them is less easy.

Often collating information from different web documents involves simple copying and pasting and repurposing the data to fit into a new document — a state of affairs that leaves us in a distinctly 'pre-web' state in terms of data.

The semantic web will use the standard of RDF (resource description framework), which merges data from different document types. With RDF, the semantic web will be able to search out information on specific subjects or phenomena by identifying common ideas in whatever form they are expressed.

"Society is a tangled mess of concepts, so that's what the semantic web should be too," said Berners-Lee. "RDF will turn the web into a big distributed database from which more information and more patterns will emerge".


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