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< Contents ERCIM News No. 51, October 2002

OntoWeb: The Thematic Network for the Semantic Web

by Ying Ding and Dieter Fensel

OntoWeb: Ontology-based information exchange for knowledge management and electronic commerce is an EU-funded three-year IST Thematic Network project within the 5th Framework Programme.

The goal of the OntoWeb is to bring researchers and industry together to enable ontologies to improve information exchange and provide better services. Meanwhile, OntoWeb also aims to strengthen the European influence on standardisation efforts in areas such as Web languages (XML, RDF, OWL), upper-layer ontologies, and content standards.

OntoWeb: The Hub for a Semantic Web
The World Wide Web is currently moving from the first generation Web to the second generation Web - the Semantic Web. Tim Berners-Lee coined the vision of a Semantic Web that provides more automated services based on machine-processable semantics of data and heuristics that make use of these metadata.

Ontologies, which provide shared and common domain theories, are a key asset for such a Semantic Web. They can be seen as metadata that explicitly represent semantics of data in a machine processable way. Ontology-based reasoning services can operationalise this semantics for providing various services. Ontologies therefore play a crucial role in enabling content-based access, interoperability, and communication across the Web, providing it with a qualitatively new level of service - the Semantic Web. It weaves together a net linking incredibly large parts of the human knowledge and complements it with machine processability.

Currently, there exist five Special Interest Groups (SIGs) within OntoWeb:

  • SIG1 on content standards: SIG1 aims to coordinate cooperation and participation in current initiatives related to ontology-based content standardization and content harmonization across different standards.
  • SIG2 on ontology language standards: SIG2 focuses on ontology language standards through coordinating cooperation, communication, and participation in related initiatives and relevant standardization efforts.
  • SIG3 on enterprise-standard ontology environments: The mission of this SIG is to support a dialog to develop quality requirements for enterprise-standard ontology environments and steer future ontology development towards addressing these requirements.
  • SIG4 on industrial applications: SIG4 offers an international forum for the exchange of ideas, practical experiences, and advances in research into industry and business applications of ontology and Semantic Web technology, especially the Web services powered by Semantic Web technology.
  • SIG5 on language technology in ontology development and use: The Motivations of SIG5 is to provide the connections between language technology and ontologies. Being the platform for cooperation and standards, SIG5 conveys the multidisciplinary expertise between natural language technology and Semantic Web. For more details, please visit: http://dfki.de/~paulb/ontoweb-lt.html

OntoWeb is the European focal point for bringing together activities in the area of ontology-based methods and tools for the Semantic Web. It will significantly secure a competitive position in the emerging business field by:

  • envisioning and describing the current state-of-the-art in ontology-related fields in Europe and world-wide, providing a strategic guide to industrial and commercial applications
  • co-operating with different standardisation bodies to promote the development of ontology-based content standardisation and ontology language standardisation
  • providing non-discriminatory access to services by individuals and businesses and aiding identification and extraction of information in a rapidly growing network.
  • organising dissemination workshops, special interest groups, a scientific journal, and training or education courses with special emphasis on Semantic-Web-Based applications, e-commerce, knowledge management and information integration. It addresses aspects of knowledge transfer between academia and industry for the emerging ontology-based technologies, enabling competitive advantages in these fast developing markets.

OntoWeb currently has about 120 members from Europe, America, and Asia. The ratio of academic and commercial members is roughly 2:1. We invite companies, research institutes, and universities active in the Semantic Web area to join the OntoWeb project. We offer the opportunity for project members to:

  • share the enriched resources of the latest ongoing research, cutting-edge knowledge, and innovative technologies through the OntoWeb portal
  • attend various OntoWeb conferences, workshops, and seminars to meet possible future collaborative partners or potential customers and to exploit new academic or business opportunities
  • join the OntoWeb Special Interest Groups (SIGs).
Let us work jointly to bring the Semantic Web to its full potential.


Please contact:
Ying Ding, Dieter Fensel
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam,
The Netherlands
E-mail: {ying, dieter}@cs.vu.nl