Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The semantic web to the rescue ?

The reporting on the Internet Governance Forum in Athens is mighty interesting. Yet another nice article on the BBC website with some thought provoking ideas.

I find it really interesting that spoken languages are considered. However, practically at this stage the Internet is very much oriented towards written languages and, given the amount of stumbling blocks that exist to integrate languages other than the ones using a Latin script, I am afraid this is just a red herring.

I was also amused to see that the semantic web was brought to the fore as one solution to the problem of linguistic diversity. Yes, it is intended to be understood by computers. Computers are used by people and the semantic web is decidedly English. This raises the question how this computer that apparently understands English communicates to its user who does not.

There are however some great things to be said about the semantic web; first of all the terms used should be unambiguous. This in turn means that it should be possible to translate it to other languages than English. This is a challenge that we face in WiktionaryZ. We are able to have semantic relations and our semantic relations do translate to the language of the User Interface. So when the terms have been translated, in WiktionaryZ relations can be understood not only but also by computers.

This is a good moment for a disclaimer; WiktionaryZ is pre-alpha software. Many of the issues that have been tackled in the development of the semantic web we have not considered let alone touched. We hope / expect that we will be allowed to stand on "the shoulders of giants".

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