OWL flies as Web ontology language

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on Tuesday issued its Web Ontology Language, its acronym spelled and pronounced "OWL," as a W3C Candidate for Recommendation, meaning the organization is seeking more implementations of the language.

According to the W3C, OWL is a language for defining structured Web-based ontologies that enable richer integration and interoperability of data across application boundaries. Some implementations already exist.

Early adopters include bioinformatics and medical communities, corporate enterprise, and governments. OWL enables applications such as Web portal management, multimedia collections that cannot respond to English language-based search tools, Web services and ubiquitous computing, W3C said.

"Essentially, an ontology is the definition of a set of terms and how they relate to each other for a particular domain and that can be used on the Web in a number of different ways," said Jim Hendler, co-chairman of the W3C Web Ontology Working Group, which released OWL.

OWL pertains to the concept of the Semantic Web, which uses XML and RDF to link content, Hendler said. Following the call for implementations stage, W3C will review and vote on OWL. It could be finalized by the fourth quarter of this year, according to a W3C representative.

While earlier languages have been used to develop tools and ontologies for specific user communities such as sciences, they were not compatible with the architecture of the World Wide Web in general, in particular the Semantic Web, said W3C. OWL uses both URLs for naming and the linking provided by RDF (Resource Description Framework) to add the following capabilities to ontologies: distributable across many systems; scalable for the Web; compatible with Web standards for accessibility and internationalization; and open and extensible.

OWL builds on RDF Model and Schema and adds vocabularies for describing properties and classes.

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