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< Contents ERCIM News No. 51, October 2002

Semantic Web Advanced Development in Europe

by Brian Matthews, Michael Wilson and Dan Brickley

The Semantic Web Activity of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) aims to augment the existing Web architecture by adding communicable information about resources which can then be processed by automated agents. This initiative has attracted much interest in the last few years, and led to the creation of a European project - SWAD-Europe or Semantic Web Advanced Development in Europe which aims to highlight practical examples of where real value can be added to the Web through the Semantic Web.

The initial inspiration for the SWAD-Europe project was a response to questions which frequently arise when considering Semantic Web technology, such as:

  • How do I use RDF with XML Schemas?
  • Web Services with Web Ontologies?
  • MathML with RDF-rules?

These technology-oriented questions often mask an overall application-oriented need. It is not clear which, if any, of these technologies are most appropriate to use, nor what the relationship between them is. A common theme recurs: technology integration. (Semantic) Web technology has a daunting array of tools, specifications and techniques - there is too much to choose from!

SWAD-Europe aims to address these concerns by tackling simple things first, to provide real examples of how the Semantic Web can address problems in areas such as: sitemaps, news channel syndication ; thesauri, classification, topic maps ; calendaring, scheduling, collaboration ; annotations, quality ratings, shared bookmarks ; Dublin Core for simple resource discovery; Web service description and discovery; trust and rights management ; and how to mix all these together. Our general approach is not to focus on the AI-related technology from the higher levels of the Semantic Web architecture, but rather to exploit what has been developed so far to have it used in practice, thereby answering some of the queries we hear. SWAD-Europe will concentrate on exploratory implementation and design in pre-consensus areas such as querying, and the integration of multiple Semantic Web technologies. In this way, we intend to show the utility of the Semantic Web to the European developer community.

An outreach programme is a key component of the project which will be approached via showcasing Semantic Web for industry applications, guidance on how to integrate Semantic Web, XML and other Web standards, and facilitating technology maturation, eg Semantic-Web-enhanced Web Services. Further, the Semantic Web will be encouraged and deepened for all parts of the industrial and academic communities within Europe.

The project will develop scenarios for demonstrating the practical utility of Semantic Web technology. We would like to give developers both a 'big picture' understanding of the Semantic Web and a detailed knowledge of the tools and techniques and thus provide feedback for standardisation work. The project will be looking at demonstrator projects and developments in a variety of technical areas:

  • XML / Semantic Web Integration: Demonstrating that SW technologies are compatible with the broader family of XML languages (especially SVG and MathML)
  • Web Services Integration: Convergence between RDF and SOAP serialisations
  • Scalability, APIs and Query Languages: Advances in technical knowledge with the rationalisation and documentation of deployed best practice for APIs and simple query languages (eg SquishQL), including testing on large triple bases
  • Trust, Annotations and Information Quality: Specific applications to augment the Web Services with tools from the Semantic Web
  • Thesauri and Knowledge Management: Simple classification tools to aid knowledge management, with an emphasis on multi-linguality in a European context.

We intend to make technical innovations in all these areas, and combine them to provide a practical demonstration of the utility of the Semantic Web.

SWAD-Europe is a collaboration between the World Wide Web Consortium in Europe, hosted by INRIA, research institutions at the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CLRC) and the University of Bristol (ILRT), and the companies Stilo International Plc and Hewlett-Packard Ltd.

SWAD-Europe is an EU-funded project, part of the Information Society Technologies (IST-7) programme. The first deliverables are already publically available at


Please contact:
Michael Wilson, CLRC

Dan Brickley, W3C