Researchers will uncover “the other” hidden internet

October 28, 2015 - 05:30

You have heard of the dark web but what do you know about the semantic net?

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You will find more accurate or useful answers to your Internet searches with the Semantic Web, which looks beyond the keywords you specified in Google. (Photo: Shutterstock)

When we think of the Internet, we think of the regular Internet that we all use when we go on Google, Facebook, and of course, ScienceNordic.com.

But there are two other sides of the Internet. One is the “dark” Internet, typically used by those who are trying to avoid the prying eyes of the authorities.

And then there is the Semantic Web--a project designed to make all data easily accessible. The semantic web contains huge amounts of data, which could potentially be harnessed for our use.

As it is, only a few people know how to use it but this is set to change, thanks to a new research project from Aalborg University, Denmark.

Katja Hose, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science is lead scientist on the project, which intends to make the Semantic Web easily accessible to all. The project receives funding from the Danish Council for Independent Research.

"If you haven’t really heard about the Semantic Web, then this is a good indication that it’s difficult to access,” says Hose.

“You can access it in a web browser, but you need to use a difficult technical language to make sense of the lists of raw data. Users have to do everything themselves and they need to know the dataset to get their code to work. So my project will make it very easy and efficient for users," she says.

Hose will produce a system known as QWeb, which will allow users to obtain answers to queries from the data contained within Semantic Web. The system will identify the most appropriate sources and display the most relevant results to the user’s query.

The QWeb system will also explain to the user how it came to these answers.

Categorisation of complex data

The idea behind the Semantic Web came from none other than the inventor of the Internet himself, Tim Berners-Lee. He invented the World Wide Web and made the first web server, while working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva.

Berners-Lee's idea for the Internet was based on a series of linked text documents. Then came the Semantic Web, where the data from the text is linked—but without all the text.

Today, the regular Internet is basically a vast network of linked text documents, surrounded by modern graphics and design. And in parallel to this, is the Semantic Web, which contains all the raw data.

Comparing many sources

But why not just use the regular Internet and Google if you have a question that you need to answer? Firstly, because you can find the answer much faster if you do not have to read through all of the articles, says Hose.

And secondly, because QWeb will compare information from a variety of sources that link to each other, and it won’t be satisfied with just one source.

"It uses several sources to get the most comprehensive results, and it’s particularly interesting when they’re contradictory. Then you automatically find out which source has the right answer, and which response is appropriate to the user," says Hose.

"Sometimes the context may switch as well. If you’re trying to find out the name of Prince Charles' wife, then the correct answer will change depending on the time period you’re looking at,” she says.

One crucial component of QWeb system is that it explains to the user exactly how it weighed the many sources of information against each other to reach the final answer.

Researcher: A very important topic

At Roskilde University, Denmark, Associate Professor Troels Andreasen says that the semantic web has great potential.

Andreasen is a computer scientist and studies content-based Internet searches.

"There’s no doubt that semantics will play a greater role in our use of online media and social media. It’s a step beyond the conventional way of using the Internet," says Andreasen.

He agrees with Hose’s description of using the Semantic Web to obtain more accurate and useful answers to your Internet queries. Rather than using something like Google, which only looks for the specific keywords that you have used.

According to Andreasen, the real advantage of using the Semantic Web over regular Internet search engines is the ability to retrieve more meaningful content relevant to your original search. This may include answers that you had not considered yourself.

"It’s a very important topic, and without doubt we’re headed in this direction," he says.

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Read the Danish version of this story on Videnskab.dk
 

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Translated by
Catherine Jex