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Moore's Law: Gordon Moore, cofounder of Intel, predicted that the number of transistors on microprocessors (and thus performance) doubles every 18 months. Note that he originally stated the density doubles every year, but the pace has slowed slightly and the prediction was revised to reflect that.
■ Consumers and businesses want to apply the network effect to their information. Average people see and understand the network effect and want it applied to their home information processing. Average homeowners now have
9Tim Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web, Harper San Francisco, p. 33.
multiple computers and want them networked. Employees understand that they can be more effective by capturing and leveraging knowledge from their coworkers. Businesses also see this, and the smart ones are using it to their advantage. Many businesses and government organizations see an opportunity for employing these technologies (and business process reengineering) with the deployment of enterprise portals as natural aggregation points.
Metcalfe's Law: Robert Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet, stated that the usefulness of a network equals the square of the number of users. Intuitively, the value of a network rises exponentially by the number of computers connected to it. This is sometimes referred to as the network effect.
■■ Progress through combinatorial experimentation demands it. An interesting brute-force approach to research called combinatorial experimentation is at work on the Internet. This approach recognizes that, because research findings are instantly accessible globally, the ability to leverage them by trying new combinations is the application of the network effect on research. Effective combinatorial experimentation requires the Semantic Web. And since necessity is the mother of invention, the Semantic Web will occur because progress demands it. This was known and prophesied in 1945 by Vannevar Bush.
The Law of Combinatorial Experimentation (from the authors): The effectiveness of combinatorial experimentation on progress is equal to the ratio of relevant documents to retrieved documents in a typical search. Intuitively, this means progress is retarded proportionally to the number of blind alleys we chase.
We close this chapter with the "call to arms" exhortation of Dr. Vannevar Bush in his seminal 1945 essay, "As We May Think":
Presumably man's spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursions may be
What Is the Semantic Web?
more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.
Even in 1945, it was clear that we needed to "mechanize" our records more fully. The Semantic Web technologies discussed in this book are the way to accomplish that.
The Business Case for the Semantic Web
"The business market for this integration of data and
programs is huge The companies who choose to
start exploiting Semantic Web technologies will be the first to reap the rewards."
—James Hendler, Tim Berners-Lee, and Eric Miller, "Integrating Applications on the Semantic Web"
In May 2001, Tim Berners-Lee, James Hendler, and Ora Lassila unveiled a vision of the future in an article in Scientific American. This vision included the promise of the Semantic Web to build knowledge and understanding from raw data. Many readers were confused by the vision because the nuts and bolts of the Semantic Web are used by machines, agents, and programs—and are not tangible to end users. Because we usually consider "the Web" to be what we can navigate with our browsers, many have difficulty understanding the practical use of a Semantic Web that lies beneath the covers of our traditional Web. In the previous chapter, we discussed the "what" of the Semantic Web. This chapter examines the "why," to allow you to understand the promise and the need to focus on these technologies to gain a competitive edge, a fast-moving, flexible organization, and to make the most of the untapped knowledge in your organization.
Perhaps you have heard about the promise of the Semantic Web through marketing projections. "By 2005," the Gartner Group reports, "lightweight ontologies will be part of 75 percent of application integration projects."1 The implications of this statement are huge. This means that if your organization hasn't started thinking about the Semantic Web yet, it's time to start. Decision
J. Jacobs, A. Linden, Gartner Group, Gartner Research Note T-17-5338, 20. August 2002.
makers in your organization will want to know, "What can we do with the Semantic Web? Why should we invest time and money in these technologies? Is there indeed this future?" This chapter answers these questions, and gives you practical ideas for using Semantic Web technologies.