Knocking Down Partitions
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 necessarymost products will come Semantically compatible." The Semantic Web is going to be like a huge data bus, Berners-Lee saida 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.