At the start of this book we outlined the challenges of automatic computer based processing of information on the Web. These numerous challenges are generally referred to as the ‘vision’ of the Semantic Web. From the outset, we have attempted to take a realistic and pragmatic view of this vision. Our opinion is that the vision may never be fully realized, but that it is a useful goal on which to focus. Each step towards the vision has provided new insights on classical problems in knowledge representation, MASs, and Web-based techniques. Thus, we are presently in a significantly better position as a result of these efforts. It is sometimes difficult to see the purpose of the Semantic Web vision behind all of the different technologies and acronyms. However, the fundamental purpose of the Semantic Web is essentially large scale and automated data integration. The Semantic Web is not just about providing a more intelligent kind of Web search, but also about taking the results of these searches and combining them in interesting and useful ways. As stated in Chapter 1, the possible applications for the Semantic Web include: automated data mining, e-science experiments, e-learning systems, personalized newspapers and journals, and intelligent devices. The current state of progress towards the Semantic Web vision is summarized in Figure 8.1. This figure shows a pyramid with the human-centric Web at the bottom, sometimes termed the Syntactic Web, and the envisioned Semantic Web at the top. Throughout this book, we have been moving upwards on this pyramid, and it should be clear that a great deal of progress that has been made towards the goal. This progress is indicated by the various stages of the pyramid, which can be summarized as follows: • The lowest stage on the pyramid is the basic Web that should be familiar to everyone. This Web of information is human-centric and contains very little automation. Nonetheless, the Web provides the basic protocols and technologies on which the Semantic Web is founded. Furthermore, the information which is represented on the Web will ultimately be the source of knowledge for the Semantic Web.
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