A Semantic Web Primer

Ina Fourie (University of Pretoria)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 1 October 2004




Fourie, I. (2004), "A Semantic Web Primer", Online Information Review, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 380-381. https://doi.org/10.1108/14684520410564352



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

In A Semantic Web Primer Grigoris Antoniou and Frank van Harmelen reveal the possibilities of the Semantic Web through a concise yet detailed introduction to the basic concepts and methods. It is part of the MIT series on Cooperative Information Systems. The vision of the Semantic Web is still evolving, so Antoniou and Van Harmelen concentrate on the Semantic Web technologies that have reached a reasonable degree of maturity (e.g. XML and RDF). In so doing they open the vision, current achievements and developments of the Semantic Web to the novice reader. Although written in an easy‐to‐follow style, and aimed as a textbook to undergraduate students and as self‐study material for practising professionals, the “novice reader” will still require a good understanding of the more technical aspects. This is especially necessary for the reader who intends to follow up on the practical exercises provided with most chapters. Although it would certainly increase the cost of the book, feedback and suggested answers would add to the value of A Semantic Web Primer for textbook and self‐study purposes.

The book consists of eight chapters and an abstract of the Web Ontology Language (OWL) syntax. Chapter 1 deals with Tim Berners‐Lee's vision of the Semantic Web as well as scenarios moving from today's Web to the Semantic Web. Examples are included for knowledge management, business‐to‐consumer electronic commerce, business‐to‐business electronic commerce and personal agents. In Chapter 2 XML is described as introducing structure to Web documents, and thus supporting interoperability. In this chapter the authors also discuss namespaces, accessing and querying XML documents using Xpath and transforming XML documents with XSLT. Chapter 3 concerns RDF and RDF schema. RDF is described as a standard data model for machine‐processable semantics, which offers a number of modelling primitives for organising RDF vocabularies in typed hierarchies.

OWL is discussed in Chapter 4. OWL offers more modelling primitives compared with RDF schema and has clean, formal semantics. Chapter 5 deals with the monotonic and non‐monotonic rules in the framework of the Semantic Web. Since this layer has not been fully developed, Antoniou and Van Harmelen focus on the principles adopted. Chapter 6 discusses several application domains and explains the benefits that they will draw from the materialisation of the Semantic Web. Chapter 7 deals with the development of ontology‐based systems for the Web and contains a mini‐project that employs the technology described in preceding chapters. The final chapter pulls preceding chapters together and takes a few glimpses at the future.

Each chapter concludes with a summary and excellent list of suggested reading. For most chapters a list of exercises and projects is also included. Extensive examples are included in chapters dealing with XML, RDF, etc.

Apart from feedback on solutions for the exercises that will probably come at a cost, my only real criticism of the book is the poor index. It is merely a list of terms with page numbers: no cross‐references.

A Semantic Web Primer is recommended for the novice interested in gaining a better understanding of the evolving Semantic Web technologies as well as professionals needing a refresher. If prescribed as a textbook, educators should ensure that is it supplemented with exercises relevant to the particular field of study, for example, library and information management.

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