Context application and perspectives: one ubiquitous web
A number of evolutions have changed the face of information systems in the past decade but the advent of the web is unquestionably a major one and it is here to stay. From an initial wide-spread perception of a public documentary system, the web as an object turned into a social virtual space and, as a technology, grew as an application design paradigm (services, data formats, query languages, scripting, interfaces, reasoning, etc.). The universal deployment and support of its standards led the web to take over nearly all of our information systems. As the web continues to evolve, our information systems are evolving with it.
Today in organizations, not only almost every internal information system is a web application, but these applications also more and more often interact with external web applications. The complexity and coupling of these web-based information systems call for specification methods and engineering tools. From capturing the needs of users to deploying a usable solution, there are many steps involving computer science specialists and non-specialists.
We defend the idea of relying on semantic web formalisms to capture and reason on the models of these information systems supporting the design, evolution, interoperability and reuse of the models and their data as well as the workflows and the processing. The challenge is to address both the social aspects of that topic (e.g. identify and exchange services and processes available in an organization) and the automation opportunities (e.g. suggest compositions of resources to provide new ones, orchestrate and monitor workflows).
With billions of triples online (see Linked Open Data initiative ), the semantic web is providing and linking open data at a growing pace and publishing and interlinking the semantics of their schemas. Information systems can now tap into and contribute to this web of data, pulling and integrating data on demand. Social web applications also spread virally (e.g. Facebook growing toward 800 million users ) first giving the web back its status of a social read-write media and then leading it to its full potential of a virtual place where to act, react and interact. Many organizations are now considering deploying social web applications internally to foster community building, expert cartography, business intelligence, technological watch and knowledge sharing in general. As networks are becoming ubiquitous not only do we multiply the access means to the web but also more and more objects of our daily life are entering what is now called the “internet of objects”. As they do so they also become visible for the application layers of the Internet and in particular the web.
These evolutions raise a whole new challenge of enabling and leveraging the encounter of two worlds: the real world (where we interact between us and with objects) and the virtual place the web became (where we also interact between us and with services and data). This long term vision of a web of objects and people stirs up many questions when one starts to consider what could be done if the objects and people around us were somehow reachable through URLs giving us access to their data, metadata and services in a web-augmented reality.
Enabling a web linking documents, people and objects with their data and services raises a number of research questions: What would be the new models and frameworks of this whole new web reaching far out of its current IT landscape, deep into our daily environment? What are these new hyperlinks we are envisioning and the graphs they would spin? What formalisms do we need to capture, represent and reason on the knowledge about all the resources that could appear and disappear rapidly on this ubiquitous web? What are the new interactions we should design together with their interfaces to synchronize the changes, actions and reactions of real world and those of its representation on the web? How would we browse, search and edit this new web and what are the new functionalities it could offer? Can we use semantics consistently both to foster and to control access to data and services? Can we conciliate stable formal knowledge representations and ever changing negotiated semantics of social interactions?