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The next generation of the internet is a step closer thanks to a major breakthrough in "semantic web" research in Ireland.

The semantic web, or data web, is a machine readable version of the internet that makes it more efficient to conduct searches, using RDF (Resource Description Framework) statements, which are used to represent information and to swap knowledge online.

These RDF statements are the backbone of the semantic web. They create associations of meaning and cause and effect relationships between concepts and ideas which can be displayed in computer languages.

Researchers at the National University of Ireland, Galway's (NUIG) Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) have developed a search engine that can answer search queries with more than seven billion RDF statements in mere fractions of a second, which is the highest number recorded to date.

Using these semantic web tools, users should get more relevant results, with the computer filtering the information and allowing the transfer and sharing of information between systems, rather than leaving it up to users to filter it themselves. At present, this information is kept in separate "silos", for example in different software systems. The semantic web could help bridge that gap.

"The importance of this breakthrough cannot be overestimated," said Professor Stefan Decker, director of DERI. "These results enable us to create web search engines that really deliver answers instead of links. The technology also allows us to combine information from the web, for example the engine can list all partnerships of a company even if there is no single web page that lists all of them."

Apparently, the semantic web is already filtering through to regular users. "RSS (really simple syndication) was the first incarnation of this, and it's pretty prevalent," Professor Decker told ENN.

Copyright © 2007, ENN

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