Thursday, June 07, 2007

Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee is the indisputed father of what we all are familiar with today as the World Wide Web.

In 1989 he had conceived the idea of a "global hypertext project"that would allow data to be linked among a world community of researchers on a network he termed the web. He would then design the software and supporting protocols familiar to web users today: the URL, HTTP and HTML and its system of server to client delivery.

Take a moment and imagine a time over a decade ago when he had designed and constructed and then run the first sever to client operation of the very first web site and you may gather some sense of the historical awe he must now enjoy at being present at the birth of a revolution.

He would go on to be a doting parent of his creation.
As head of the World Wide Consortium which ensures and regulates standards of the web in league with professionals across the world he has helped to guide the development of web technology through the potential anarchy of its exponential growth.

He continues to remain very much in the mix. An outspoken supporter of Web Neutrality and an advocate for the possibilities of the next step, the so called Semantic web.

In an article in CNET he outlines the challenges of the next stage of the web, to make meaningful connections between the vast arrays of data currently available.

Berners-Lee said that building the stack of technologies needed to make the Semantic Web a reality has taken some time, but that we're now at the stage where the technologies can be used.

"We set out five years ago with the famous layer cake diagram, saying we're going to need RDF (resource description framework) as a data language, we're going to need an ontology language, we're going to need query and rules languages. We've been making our way through that," said Berners-Lee.

The same article spells out how close the new possiblity is now at hand:

The last layer of that cake has recently been finalized. Berners-Lee explained that "the Query language, SPARQL, is now in the candidate recommendation phase, which means it's time to implement it. Without SPARQL, we could say the stack was fairly incomplete. Then suddenly we realized, 'Just imagine that you've been trying to sell relational database systems with just a data language but no query language.'"

This last step will be the biggest, because it will allow a link between the old Web and the new, Semantic Web. "SPARQL is going to make a huge difference, because behind a SPARQL server you can put a huge amount of existing data and then serve it up to the Semantic Web," said Berners-Lee

An animated speaker his past and future are an affirmation of the best spirit of the technological age. As a child of mathematicians he was encouraged to think outside of the box from the earliest age. At Oxford forays into hacking saw him banned him from using computers while there. The punitive measure did little to quell a restless curiosity.

His religious persuasion is Unitarian Universalism a movement that describes a broad perspective to religion encompassing just about every view point of belief and non-belief with the equanimity that seems to characterise the best of the current breed of technocrats.

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