At lunchtime today the UK’s Department of Business announced the first round of government cuts, including: “£18 million by stopping low priority projects like the Semantic web”
Could this be right? Was the new coalition government really going to stop the next stage of the Web – sometimes referred to as Web 3.0 – in which artificial intelligence (AI) techniques are introduced to the Internet? How would they do this? Ban the use of RDF (one of the key standards involved) or close down the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the standards body that oversees it?
After an outbreak of fevered twittering, the Department updated its text to read:
“stopping low priority projects like the Institute of Web Sciences (researching semantic web technologies)”
So, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The Semantic Web is safe. But this is a breathtaking example of short-sightedness on the part of UK Plc.
The Institute was announced in March with Web inventor, and Englishman, Sir Tim Berners-Lee slated to be heading it up. It was to be based at Oxford and Southampton, universities with strong Internet and AI research pedigrees. With British companies having pretty much missed out on Web 1.0 and 2.0 explosions (look at the roll call of names of the top twenty Web companies: Google, Facebook, E-Bay, Amazon etc.) we had a good chance not to miss out on Web 3.0. Looks like as a nation we are about to drop the ball yet again.
So well done on yet another own goal. The UK’s new government has shot down one of the few emerging industries in which we could genuinely claim some world-class prowess.