Knocking Down Partitions

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-12-02 Print this article Print

Prototype applications already exist. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, has developed an application called Haystack that enables users to do things such as drag photos straight from an e-mail and drop them into a photo album. Haystack knocks down the partitions that separate e-mail clients, file systems, calendars, address books, the Web and other repositories so that information can be worked with regardless of its origin. Such applications will have a big impact on personal information management, Berners-Lee said, as users will be able to do things such as drop their bank statements onto their calendars and have items automatically populate given dates.
Such descriptions sound familiar to anybody whos been following IBMs work with its Information Integrator technology or Oracle Corp.s upcoming Tsunami content management offering, which it plans to roll out at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco next week.
Do these offerings overlap the Semantic Web, or are they its first incarnations? Berners-Lee said typical EAI (enterprise application integration) systems work in a "sort of similar way" to the Semantic Web, in that they entail adapters that convert data to whatever the EAI systems want it to look like. The big difference, though, is that once youve paid somebody to integrate enterprise applications, the technology provider now has access to the data. But do you? "Do you have access? Or is it stored in a proprietary system?" Berners-Lee said. "Hopefully in the future, adapters wont be necessary—most products will come Semantically compatible." The Semantic Web is going to be like a huge data bus, Berners-Lee said—a back-end bus that spans the planet. Comparing it to Tsunami or Information Integrator is like saying there used to be Hypercards before the Web. "Yes, there were innumerable Hypercard applications before the World Wide Web," he said. "They just didnt talk the same language." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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