UK experts develop new language for Internet


OWL 2, was developed by an international team led by computer scientists from Oxford University and the University of Manchester.
One of the first and most important applications of the new language is to help computers understand and analyse specialised medical terms.
"The World Wide Web as we see it today is rather like a collection of linked documents," said Professor Ian Horrocks of Oxford University's Computing Laboratory who helped to develop OWL 2.
"Whilst humans are very good at analysing the data contained in these pages, languages such as HTML do not help computers to 'bridge the meaning gap', and understand that, for instance, paracetamol, acetaminophen, and para-acetylaminophen are all names for the same thing," he added.
A good example of the scale of the problem facing medics and computer scientists is the NCI Cancer Thesaurus that has swollen from 20,000 medical terms in 2004 to over 50,000 terms today.

As new terms are being added all the time, ensuring that all these terms are described, updated and linked together correctly is a mammoth task for humans.
However, by using OWL 2 definitions can be written in such a way that computer programs can tirelessly update these terms thereby updating the structure of the Thesaurus and pointing out where there are errors.
"OWL 2 enables computer programs to interpret these terms in a much more human-like way, for instance reasoning that if a fracture is located on a bone which is part of a leg then that fracture is a fracture of that leg," said Bijan Parsia of the University of Manchester's School of Computer Science.
The development of OWL 2 is part of continuing efforts by computer scientists to build the 'Semantic Web', a Web that suits the needs of computer programmes rather than just the needs of human web users.
OWL 2 is set to reach the final stage of ratification by the Web's international standards organisation, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), this week.
This 'Recommendation' stage means that the standard has undergone extensive review and testing and is now endorsed by the W3C as a standard suitable for widespread use.
The first version of OWL (Web Ontology Language) was standardised by the World Wide Web Consortium in 2004.

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