WWW2006 wrapup

Wow, what a week!

WWW: This is a fantastic conference, very high quality, excellent organisation, lots and lots of fascinating people.

Edinburgh: The label “Athens of the North” is appropriate. It’s all there, the city sprawling over several hills, the mountain backdrop, the sea in the distance, the withering stone monuments. Just replace the light browns and yellows and greys of Greece with the saturated greens and wet sandstone colors of Scotland and set it against a grey sky of low-hanging clouds. Edinburgh is the only city I know that actually looks better in rain. I’ll visit again.

The Semantic Web: I’m frequently voicing my frustrations with RDF, but seeing all the energy at WWW I can’t help but think that we’re on track. People have tried out lots of things, and a consensus is emerging on what works and what doesn’t. The big IT companies start to throw resources at RDF, “because customers ask for it and we want to make money,” as Susie Stephens from Oracle said in her talk.

Tim Berners-Lee: He’s a visionary, and seeing him in person is great. I’ve read his book recently, and after his keynote appearances, his comments in workshop and demo sessions, and his own demo of Tabulator, I think I begin to understand what he wants the Semantic Web to be. His vision is surprisingly different from what most of the community is doing. I’ll expand on this in a future post.

Web 2.0: The new version is no longer in beta, it’s stable and deployed, sites are switching over one by one, and the big players depend on it for their business-critical stuff. If you’re in web development and don’t live and breath AJAX and JSON and RESTful APIs yet, be worried.

JSON: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery.) JSON over REST is web service perfection. Javascript is the duct tape of Web 2.0.

RDFa: The new method of embedding RDF in HTML received a warm reception. It’s a very leightweight method of publishing RDF and not all that much more complicated than the popular microformats approach. I think it was Carole Goble who remarked that W3C should have started out with RDFa, instead of pushing RDF/XML.

SPARQL: SPARQL feels almost a bit over-hyped. It was certainly much talked about. I wonder when companies will start to advertise their “enterprise-class SPARQL solutions.” I expect it to become a buzzword over the next year. SPARQL will drive RDF’s adoption in the data integration area, but won’t have much effect on the “public” Semantic Web.

Semantic MediaWiki: TimBL is a fan. So am I. This is how you integrate things learned from RDF into existing software in an unobstrusive and useful way.

D2R Server: My demo was pretty average I think; my time was cut short because I had the day’s last slot, and (as always) I should have rehearsed more. I’ve got a lot of good feedback though and have a very clear picture of where I want to take the tool. The database-to-RDF area will be quite important, and I think we already have got a lot of things right.

Great conference, highly recommended for anyone interested in the future of the Web. WWW2007 is in Banff, Canada. I will try hard to be there.

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