Communicating the Value of Cisco.com

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Communicating the Value of Cisco.com

Demystifying the Semantic Web;

Is Migration Right For You?

April 14, 2003

San Francisco

By Kristen Brennan

SBI and Company

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1

What is a Semantic Website?


The term “Semantic Web” was first
coined by Tim Berners
-
Lee, Director
of the World Wide Web Consortium.
He views the Semantic Web as the
next evolutionary step for the World
Wide Web, which he invented in 1989.

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2

What is a Semantic Website?

Imagine two librarians. The first has memorized the title and location of every
book in her library, but never opened one. She could find you a copy of “Gone
With The Wind,” but only if you knew the exact name and spelling.


The second librarian has read and understood every book. She could find you
“the book about Scarlett O’Hara,” or “a romance set in the antebellum South,”
or even “a great classic for young girls.”


A Semantic Web is like the librarian who has read the books. It can go beyond
mere information retrieval to intelligent decision
-
making.

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3

What Distinguishes a Semantic Website?

Syntactic

Root: Greek
Syntassein
, meaning “to
arrange”


Definition: A syntax is a scheme for
naming and arranging a group of
elements.


Usage: Websites have historically
been built on the syntactic model,
which “thinks” in terms of individual
elements, but has no innate
awareness of how they relate.

Semantic

Root: Greek
sEma, meaning “sign”


Definition: A semantic model is a way
of describing the
meaning

of
elements in terms of their
relationships with each other.


Usage: A website built with a
semantic model “thinks” in terms of
relationships. Those relationships
and the elements which they describe
form an
ontology
.

Sophistication

1970s

1980s

1990s

Today

Static syntactic websites

Dynamic syntactic websites

Semantic websites

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4

What is an Ontology?

The word “Ontology” comes from the New Latin
ontologia
, which means “the study of being.” It
refers to the branch of philosophy which attempts to
describe the nature of existence.

In the computer industry an ontology is a
formal model

describing the fundamental
elements of a system in a way that a
computer can understand.


The term was popularized by researchers
into Artificial Intelligence. They believe
that organizing a computer’s information
into an ontological model grants the
machine a crude form of ‘self awareness,’
which enables it to make decisions more
intelligently.


Web ontologies are nearly always built
using a
taxonomy

and a set of
inference
rules
.

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5

What is a Taxonomy?


A Taxonomy is a classification system organized by parent
-
child
relationships. The word is traditionally applied to the tree of
interrelationships of animal species (as in this taxonomy of birds).

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6

What Are Inference Rules?

Computer scientists borrowed the term
“formal system” from mathematics,
specifically the field of logic. A formal
system contains both Axioms and Rules of
Inference (or ‘Inference Rules’).


An Axiom is a rule, such as “Dogs may not
visit the Beach.”


Inference Rules provide a system for
deriving child
-
rules from axioms. So if Spot
is a dog, and the axiom is “Dogs may not
visit the Beach,” then we may
infer

the rule
“Spot may not visit the Beach.”

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7

What Are Semantic Relationships?

For a machine to understand how to
make inferences, it must know that
Spot is a dog. In other words, it
must explicitly understand the
relationship between “Spot” and the
concept of “Dog.” The machine
must also know what
type

of
relationship the two share


in this
case “Species.”


When two or more objects are
defined in terms of their relationship
with each other, and that relationship
is of a recognized type, we have
described the relationship
semantically
.


A fully
-
semantic website is one in
which every element is described
semantically.

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8

Advantages of Semantic Websites

Websites based on a semantic model offer significant advantages
over those built on syntactic models:

Semantic Model

Syntactic Model

The resource costs for fully iterating
changes across a syntactic website
grow exponentially; the more pages,
the greater the cost.

The semantic model accommodates
changes with a modest resource cost
which remains constant. This results in a
lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership):


Syntactic web
-
models are usually
organized in a fixed products
-
and
-
services tree.

Semantic models can easily present data in
whichever perspective is most appropriate:
business needs, marketing, support, or even
custom
-
tailored to each individual user. This
provides flexibility of perspective.

Semantic websites may be reorganized
quickly and easily. They may therefore
accommodate unforeseen business needs
of the future.


Syntactic websites are “hard
-
wired”
to a single model which may become
outdated.

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9

Advantages of Semantic Websites

The most obvious advantage of the semantic model is Flexibility to Grow: the
resource cost of accommodating change remains constant, as contrasted with the
exponential growth rate of resource costs for maintaining a syntactic website.

For large corporate sites who plan to grow,
the question is not “Should our website
migrate to a semantic model?”, but “
When

should our website migrate to a semantic
model?”

In one legend Chess was introduced
into Europe by a traveling Fool. The
King was so pleased with the game
that he offered the Fool as much
grain as he could carry. The Fool
asked instead for a chessboard with
a single grain of wheat in the first
square, and double the amount in
every subsequent square. The King,
thinking he was getting a bargain,
agreed. 1+2^63 is such an
enormous number that the Fool
ended up owning the entire
kingdom. The moral: "Any
exponential growth will eventually
outstrip any linear growth."

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10

Semantic Website Challenges

The semantic website model also
offers challenges: initial setup is
more expensive, the learning curve
for those who maintain the system
is steeper, and the organizational
hurdles can be significant.


Tokugawa Ieyasu, the world’s first
Shogun, faced similar problems
when he attempted to unify the
various territories of Japan into a
single nation in the early 1600s.

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11

Semantic Website Challenges

Tokugawa first created infrastructure, connecting all
of Japan with well
-
maintained, well
-
policed roads for
the first time.


Soon thereafter he encouraged a common culture by
mandating Japanese as the national language. He
faced strong resistance from those who wished to
continue speaking their regional languages.

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12

Semantic Website Challenges

Tokugawa persevered, and his
unification process ultimately
became one of the primary
elements which allowed Japan to
become a consistant economic
force on the world stage.

Contrast with China, which has far
greater resources; Because the
Chinese still speak hundreds of
languages, China often behaves
like many tiny nations rather than a
single great nation.

Japanese

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13

Should Your Site Migrate? Factors to Consider

Size of website (in pages)

Resource cost for each change

Syntactic model:

The resource cost

for each change
increases
exponentially

Semantic model: costs level
off after migration point

TCO (Total Cost of Ownership

Syntactic Model

Initial Setup Costs

Semantic Model

Cost

Syntactic Model

Significant Feature Upgrade Costs

Semantic Model

Cost

Semantic websites cost
more initially…

…but major upgrades

are much cheaper.

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14

Case Study: Google.com

Semantic

Syntactic

Google.com takes advantage of what
might be called a
limited semantic
model
. That is, they
derive

a semantic
model of the entire World Wide Web,
which empowers their search engine
with an ability to perform queries with
far more intelligence than any of their
competitors.


However, because Google’s model is
derived

from the Web rather than
driving it
, Google is unable to take
advantage of some of the best features
of semantic modeling: they cannot
mandate a single vocabulary for the
entire web. Even more importantly, they
cannot decide which relationships
should define a page, but must rely
solely on which relationships already
exist


primarily links between pages.


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15

Case Study: Google.com

Even this
limited

semantic
model has demonstrated
unprecedented advantages.


Search engine performance is
increasingly measured by the
amount of time people spend
using the tool. By this metric,
Google is almost twice as
popular as their nearest
competitor.


Semantic modeling offers the
potential to dramatically
improve
usability
.

Total Search Hours (in millions)

As of February 2002

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16

Case Study: Amazon.com

Like Google, Amazon takes advantage
of what might be called a
limited
semantic model
. But instead of
working from a derived semantic
model, they
add

a semantic layer on top
of what is essentially a syntactic
database.


Amazon creates this semantic layer by
modeling the relationships between
purchases made by their customers.
So for instance, if most people who buy
Harry Potter

books purchase the entire
series, and you've bought all but the
latest, there's a good chance you'll buy
that one, too.

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17

Toward a Mature Semantic Website

Marketing;

Advertising

Marketing;

Pricing

Marketing;

Product Support

How does one avoid the risk of creating a bottleneck problem when migrating to a semantic
model? That is, if all web changes must be made to a single engine owned by a single group,
how can the system best satisfy those groups who have grown to expect complete autonomy
over their own web areas? To understand this question, let’s revisit the typical syntactic web,
which resembles a series of “silos”:

Marketing information

for 7200 Router

Pricing information

for 7200 Router

Support information

for 7200 Router

…these silos meet the needs of each individual group, but because
they’re not connected, there is duplication of effort (at best) or even
inconsistency of information. These problems grow worse as the
website expands.

Data is

decentralized

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18

Toward a Mature Semantic Website

Creating a Semantic Model unifies these silos into a single system:

ALL information

for 7200 Router

…eliminating duplication of effort (thus saving $) and improving
navigation consistency. However, the individual groups may feel
limited by loss of autonomy over their web areas.

Semantic Engine

Data is

decentralized

Metadata is

centralized

Marketing;

Advertising

Marketing;

Pricing

Marketing;

Product Support

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19

…which is solved through creation of Semantic Engine Clients:

Semantic Engine

Toward a Mature Semantic Website

Marketing Client

Financial Client

Data is

decentralized

Metadata is

centralized

Access to

metadata is

decentralized

…thus providing a “best of both worlds” solution.

IT Client

Marketing;

Advertising

Marketing;

Pricing

Marketing;

Product Support

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20

Toward a Mature Semantic Website

For each major internal client of the semantic
engine, it may be possible to first capture a quick
win with a broad rules
-
based tool (“Surface the
best
-
selling product in each category on that
category’s homepage”). Ultimately each client
will seek a more granular tool (“Put a particular
link on a particular page.”).


Internal clients get the flexibility, autonomy and
quick
-
turnaround they’ve always enjoyed, and
the company as a whole takes advantage of the
semantic model.


As with Tokugawa’s mandate of a single
-
language Japan, unifying an Enterprise Site
requires strong leadership and the ability to
weather short
-
term growing pains in the interest
of much greater long
-
term advantages.

Marketing

Rules Client

Financial

Rules Client

IT

Rules Client

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21

Semantic Engine

Toward a Mature Semantic Website

Marketing;

Advertising

Marketing;

Pricing

Marketing;

Product Support

The semantic model
-
driven website is only one of the benefits to creating a
company
-
wide ontology. Ultimately, the Semantic Engine can be expanded to
empower Business Intelligence not only between a company and their web
-
audience, but among the various internal divisions of the company. Company
-
wide semantic consensus makes that company
smarter
.

Financial

IT

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22

Thank You