Sunday, May 31, 2009

ISWC 2002 and Tim Berners-Lee

The First International Semantic Web Conference took place on the beautiful Mediterranean island of Sardinia, Italy from June 9th-12th, 2002, immediately preceding the OntoWeb workshop. I attended the conference as CEO of London-based Network Inference, Ltd., which later became Cerebra, Inc. The intellectual property of Cerebra was later acquired by webMethods in 2006.

The Semantic Web is the extension of the World Wide Web that enables people to share content beyond the boundaries of applications and websites. It has been described in rather different ways: as a utopian vision, as a web of data, or merely as a natural paradigm shift in our daily use of the Web. Most of all, the Semantic Web has inspired and engaged many people to create innovative semantic technologies and applications. is the common platform for this community.

Shortly after the Sardinia conference, I flew to MIT in Boston, where I met with Tim Berners-Lee. The hidden agenda of my lunch meeting with Tim was first to persuade him to join the board of directors of our company, Network Inference, Ltd., and second, to ensure that our flagship inference engine, Cerebra, had an active standing as one of the designated W3C-compliant standards.

On the first objective, I was turned down, because in his position as W3C chairman, Tim explained that he was prevented from accepting any board seats, corporate or advisory. This conflict of interest and resulting academic purity has kept Tim from participating in many lucrative companies. After a cheeseburger and iced tea, Tim took a Polaroid of me and placed in on his office wall that contained all of the other CEOs that had offered him board seats. I felt humbled. On the second objective, I was relatively successful since the Manchester-based software technology observed many of the requirements of the W3C and remains one of the leading inferencing engines for the semantic web.

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