[Top] [All Lists]

[ontolog-forum] Semantic Web shortcomings [was Re: ANN: GoodRelations -

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Michael Maximilien" <mmaximilien@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2008 16:31:54 -0700
Message-id: <e4a067650808121631q4657dc8cw7dd3233cdd146123@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear John et al.,    (01)

As a long time passive casual reader of this list and having even
participated in some ONTOLOG sessions in the past (circa 2005), I
first want to say that I always appreciate your posts.  They are
always clear and full of wisdom.    (02)

I found this one to be particular thoughtful, pragmatic, and to the
point.  Like you, I too am also of the opinion that the Semantic Web
community has made a series of mistakes at the architecture, design,
and implementation as well as business level, which are likely to
prevent it (and associated technologies) from ever going mainstream on
the Web.    (03)

As a new researcher and observer of what goes on related to the Web in
Silicon Valley, I was quickly brought down to earth in 2004 when I
tried to sell and show early efforts and research in Semantic Web.    (04)

Upon a deeper (though casual) analysis of the reality in the valley
and going back to my software engineering roots, I came to the
realization, like you, that Semantic Web technologies and artifacts
are simply not meshing well with Web technologies.  However, unlike
your excellent DB-focused analysis, mine was around Software
Engineering and in particular the lack of agility in Semantic Web
tools and technologies.    (05)

Web developers want quick and malleable results that they can quickly
show to their stakeholders.  The reason is simply that with the
Internet, software cycles are shorter and shorter.  To stay in
business, companies and developers must show completely working
systems soon, otherwise clients move on.  Agility is paramount.
Frameworks like Ruby on Rails, PHP/Zend, and Python/Django have gained
wide acceptance and popularity in recent months (past 36 months or so)
primarily due to their uncanny ability to get you up and running on
the Web in a matter of hours, not days.  You simply need an idea, a
relational database, and a server, and a few hours of programming.    (06)

Indeed many of the mushrooming Facebook applications and other hot Web
2.0 and 2.x applications are now done in these frameworks over
weekends here in the valley...  With cloud computing, the database and
the servers requirements are themselves becoming commodities that you
can pay for by the hour---only increasing the pressures to have quick
and agile development.    (07)

Semantic Web, and various aspects of initial versions of Web services
for that matter, required heavy tooling or 'big up front designs"
which are antithesis to the core virtues of the Web.  That with the
fact that they mostly ignored the staying power and value of the
relational data model, made them unknown and heavy to developers.  The
return on such huge up front investment to use Semantic Web tools is
simply too big to justify the minimal returns...    (08)

Additionally, in my opinion, the Achilles heels of the Semantic Web
was maybe the fact the designers seemingly ignored one of the reasons
of the Web's success.  The simple fact fact that with minimal
protocols (HTTP and few others) and few up front agreements (HTML and
others) the Web allowed anyone, anywhere to publish and create
applications...  Yes that leads to a plethora of duplicated data and
semantics, but that's fine as, in the end, it also follows how humans
naturally do things.    (09)

Human civilizations has seen various repeated technologies and tools
over centuries.  The Chinese initially invented many technologies that
the west re-invented later on...  and now, vice a versa.  Why would a
wold-wide web be any different?  If as humans we liked having one
meaning and representation for domains, we would all speak English,
Spanish, or Chinese.  We don't and in many way this is a great thing
with lots of benefits, while also creating various drawbacks.    (010)

Now, this is not to say that the Web is perfect and that efforts to
add semantics or making the Web more secure are not needed.  It simply
is a reminder that any mainstream changes on the Web needs to mesh
with the core values and design choices that have made the Web a
success.  It's no wonder that REST has surpassed SOAP/WSDL for making
the Web programmable.  REST meshes perfectly with the Web's
architecture; SOAP in many ways, simply does not...    (011)

Ajith Ranabahu (PhD student at Wright State University) and I have a
short paper that summarizes some of this thinking that we presented
last year at ICSC (http://icsc2007.eecs.uci.edu/).  You can find a PDF
here for your perusal:
http://maximilien.org/publications/papers/2007/Maximilien+Ranabahu07a.pdf    (012)

All in all, I think it's great that every now and then we are able to
be pragmatic about things and realize our mistakes.  I believe that
this shows strength, confidence, and maturity.  I believe many aspects
and promises from Semantic Web technologies need a bit of that
pragmatic reminder...    (013)

Sincerely yours,    (014)

E. Michael Maximilien (aka "max")
IBM Research
San Jose, CA USA    (015)

On Tue, Aug 12, 2008 at 7:01 AM, John F. Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Martin,
> Thanks for the pointers to your papers.  I agree with a lot of what
> you say, but my major concern is that there is much, much more to say
> that goes far beyond what the Semantic Web is currently doing.  A lot
> of useful work has been done within the SemWeb paradigm, but my major
> complaint is that it's too provincial.  The foundation was established
> without considering the immense amount of mission-critical technology
> that was already available and very widely used.
> Relational databases are the most obvious technology that was omitted.
> The world economy runs on RDBs, and nearly every major commercial web
> site is integrated with an RDB.  For smaller sites, the standard is
> LAMP:  Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Perl, Python, or PHP.
> When RDF(S) was being designed, the obvious approach was to support
> arbitrary n-tuples.  That would have made it trivial to download or
> upload any or all of an SQL database (or the response from an SQL
> query) to or from RDF n-tuples.  Some people who had a bright idea
> for implementing "triple stores" thought that they could implement
> triples faster than n-tuples.  But that is not only false, it
> would be hopelessly nearsighted as a design decision, even if it
> had a grain of truth.
> Another weakness is that the designers ignored the major lesson
> of DB design from the earliest, pre-relational days:  a DB without
> indexing is hopelessly inefficient.  Embedding data in web pages
> is useful for many purposes, but high-speed processing of large
> volumes of data requires downloading and indexing. (Note Google.)
> Another limitation is caused by ignoring existing standards.
> There is an ISO standard for Prolog, but people are still working
> on an incredibly underpowered version called RuleML.  Many major
> sites routinely download RDF and OWL into Prolog in order to get
> any kind of reasonable performance.  At our company (VivoMind),
> we download and translate RDF and OWL into Prolog faster than
> most native processors can do just the download.  Then the
> Prolog version runs circles around the native systems.
> Prolog is the major language used for immensely large systems
> that do complex inferences.  As just one example, Experian
> (one of the three major credit bureaus that check everybody's
> credit worthiness) uses Prolog for all their complex checks.
> In fact, they use it so much that they bought the Prologia
> company, which was founded by Alain Colmerauer, the person
> who first designed and implemented Prolog.
> There is much more to say, but it's essential for the SemWebbers
> to recognize that there is an enormous amount of very important
> theory and technology that must be integrated with the Sem Web
> before it can reach the high hopes that people had for it.  And
> integration does *not* mean a one-sided mapping of everything
> outside the Sem Web into XML-based notations.
> And by the way, I'm pleased that you liked my paper "Fads and
> Fallacies about Logic."  Jim Hendler was the editor of the
> journal in which it was published, and Jim liked the paper
> -- despite the fact that he and I have had many arguments
> over the years about many things (although we occasionally
> agree about a few).
> John
> _________________________________________________________________
> Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/
> Subscribe/Config: http://ontolog.cim3.net/mailman/listinfo/ontolog-forum/
> Unsubscribe: mailto:ontolog-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
> Community Wiki: http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/
> To Post: mailto:ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>    (016)

http://blog.maximilien.com    (017)

Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/  
Subscribe/Config: http://ontolog.cim3.net/mailman/listinfo/ontolog-forum/  
Unsubscribe: mailto:ontolog-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
Community Wiki: http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/ 
To Post: mailto:ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx    (018)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>