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Dynamic Ontologies On The Web Essay

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Dynamic Ontologies on the Web
Jeff Heflin and James Hendler
Department of Computer Science University of Maryland College Park, MD 20742 {heflin, hendler}

We discuss the problems associated with managing ontologies in distributed environments such as the Web. The Web poses unique problems for the use of ontologies because of the rapid evolution and autonomy of web sites. We present SHOE, a web-based knowledge representation language that supports multiple versions of ontologies. We describe SHOE in the terms of a logic that separates data from ontologies and allows ontologies to provide different perspectives on the data. We then discuss the features of SHOE that address ontology versioning, the effects of ontology revision on SHOE web pages, and methods for implementing ontology integration using SHOE’s extension and version mechanisms.

1. Introduction
The World Wide Web is a repository of information that is structured for presentation to human readers and is thus mostly inaccessible to machines. This situation will be somewhat alleviated by the Extensible Markup Language (XML), which allows content to be separated from presentation. However, although XML Document Type Declarations (DTDs) can specify the grammar of markup languages, there are no facilities for formalizing the meaning of these languages. To create a web language with semantics, one must extend XML with features of knowledge representation (KR) languages. However, the Web presents new challenges for KR; simply creating an XML syntax for traditional KR languages is insufficient. The Web is a distributed system and there are many providers of information. As such, the reliability of information is questionable, and it is inevitable that inconsistencies will arise. The Web is also in a constant state of change. Although standard vocabularies will be necessary for interoperability, these vocabularies must be able to evolve as the Web does. Additionally, the sheer size of the Web will test the scalability of KR systems and algorithms. As a consequence of the Web’s size and dynamic nature, it must be treated as an open-world, since it would be Copyright © 2000, American Association for Artificial Intelligence ( All rights reserved.

unrealistic for any agent to assume that it knows all true facts about the Web. The Simple HTML Ontology Extensions (SHOE) is an ontology-based knowledge representation language that is embedded in web pages (Luke et al. 1997; Heflin, Hendler, and Luke 1999). Over the course of four years, we have investigated the use of ontologies to support the structuring and querying of data on the Web. We begin this paper with an overview of the SHOE language, and then provide a logical semantics for it. We then discuss the problem of ontology revision, which is necessary in a dynamic environment such as the Web, and describe how SHOE’s versioning mechanism copes with this. Next, we discuss the tendency of distributed ontologies to diverge, and provide methods for reintegrating them using SHOE’s extension and version mechanisms. Finally, we discuss related work and present our conclusions.

The underlying philosophy of SHOE is that intelligent internet agents will be able to better perform their tasks if the most useful information is provided in a structured manner. To this end, SHOE extends HTML with a set of knowledge oriented tags that, unlike HTML tags, provide structure for knowledge acquisition as opposed to information presentation. SHOE associates meaning with this content by making each web page commit to one or more ontologies. These ontologies permit the discovery of implicit knowledge through the use of taxonomies and inference rules, allowing information providers to encode only the necessary information on their web pages, and to use the level of detail that is appropriate to the context. Interoperability is promoted through the sharing and reuse of ontologies. To achieve compatibility with existing web standards, SHOE’s syntax is defined as an application of SGML, a language that defines tag-based languages and was the influence for HTML’s syntax. A slight variant of the syntax exists for compatibility with XML, and can be used by web sites that have begun to migrate to XML. The nature of the SHOE language makes it possible to develop numerous tools and architectures for processing it. In order to evaluate the language, we have built a suite

... ... ... ... ... Figure 1. An Example Ontology of tools, including a tool for adding SHOE markup to web pages, a web crawler that gathers SHOE from web pages and stores it in a knowledge base, and a number of query tools. We have applied these tools to various domains, including computer science departments and food safety. A discussion of these tools and applications can be found in Heflin, Hendler and Luke (1999). Demos of the tools are available at Ontology reuse in SHOE is accomplished by extending general ontologies to create more specific ontologies. Specifically, the tag indicates the id and version number of an ontology that is extended. An optional URL field allows systems to locate the ontology if needed and a PREFIX field is used to establish a short local identifier for the ontology. When an ontology refers to an element from an extended ontology, this prefix and a period is appended before the element’s name. In this way, references are guaranteed to be unambiguous, even when two ontologies use the same term to mean different things. By chaining the prefixes, one can specify a path through the extended ontologies to an element in a general ontology. An ontology can define categories, relations, and other components. Categories are introduced with a tag and may specify one or more subsuming categories. Note that it is not possible to specify subsuming categories for a category defined in another ontology. Relations, which are essentially n-ary predicates, are defined with a tag and must specify types for each argument. Sometimes an ontology may need to use a term from another ontology, but a different label may be more useful within its context. The tag allows the ontology to specify a local name for a concept from any extended ontology. This local name must be unique within the scope of the ontology in which the rename appears. Renaming allows domain specific ontologies to use the vocabulary that is appropriate for the domain, while maintaining interoperability with other domains. SHOE uses inference rules, indicated by the tag, to supply additional axioms. A SHOE inference rule consists of a body of one or more subclauses describing claims that entities might make and

2.1 Language Features
In this section we describe the features of SHOE that are necessary for an understanding of this paper. The reader may be surprised by the simplicity...

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