Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, and prominent researcher Nigel Shadbolt will lead a new British Institute for Web Science with $45 million in government backing. The announcement was not without its critics, but the Institute could have a world-wide impact.
The two men collaborated in helping build the excellent data.gov.uk and will now expand upon that work. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said of the move: “We are determined to go further in breaking down the walled garden of Government…This Institute will help place the UK at the cutting edge of research on the Semantic Web and other emerging web and internet technologies.”
Understanding the Web of Data
Berners-Lee said two years ago last month that all the pieces were in place to build the semantic web, a paradigm based on giving structured meaning to and clear links between otherwise unstructured content floating around the web. Many people believe that a web with semantic structure will be the same type of boon to innovation that common standards like HTML have been.
Berners-Lee famously described his vision of the semantic web like this:
I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.