PC users have volumes of information saved on their computers, most
of it disconnected and disparate save for a basic directory system. The
answer to connecting all the information into a local semantic Web
of information is closer than you might think.
Thanks to the open source NEPOMUK (Networked Environment for Personalized,
Ontology-based Management of Unified Knowledge) effort, the Semantic Desktop
isn’t a dream; it’s an emerging reality and will be here with the upcoming
release of KDE 4 for the Linux desktop.
“NEPOMUK is a project attempting to address what we see as a major missing
component of the open source environment — what we call ‘semantic
capabilities,’ which you can think of as the ability to define and take
advantage of the relationships between different items and types of data
throughout the desktop and beyond,” Stéphane Laurière, Semantic Web
activities coordinator at Linux distribution Mandriva, told
Mandriva is an active participant in the NEPOMUK effort along with HP, IBM,
SAP and others. Among the ways that Mandriva expects to take advantage of the Semantic Desktop include a community help desk system and a P2P framework for the exchange of data and information.
The Semantic Desktop is more power than just using Google Desktop search,
according to Laurière since existing desktop search tools are limited to
full text indexing.
“The Semantic Desktop makes it possible to store relations, and
then to search for specific ones,” Laurière explained.
For example, a Semantic Desktop will store the relationship between a file
saved on the computer and the e-mail it originates from. According to
Laurière the Semantic Desktop merges the document and database approaches by
converting all the documents present on the computer into a gigantic graph
of data that can be queried and enhanced from all the desktop applications.
NEPOMUK isn’t just about the desktop, though; the larger vision behind it is
to be an enabler of the Semantic Web.
Sebastian Trüg, Mandriva architect of NEPOMUK-KDE, told
internetnews.com that NEPOMUK largely uses the Semantic Web standards
of the RDF (define) family. Additionally he argued that the NEPOMUK
world view is that the desktop is a privileged channel for putting into
practice the Semantic Web principles.
“The desktop consists of isolated data whose structure and meaning are
encapsulated in each application, just as Web data semantics is encapsulated
in each Web site information system,” Trüg explained. “This data would
become tremendously more meaningful if it were cross-linked through a layer
of interoperable metadata.”
Trüg and Mandriva are specifically working on the NEPOMUK-KDE implementation,
which is set for inclusion in the KDE 4 open source desktop later this year.
The core semantic features are a key component of KDE 4’s new file manager
Though currently implemented for KDE, NEPOMUK isn’t limited to one desktop.
Mandriva’s Stéphane Laurière noted that discussions with some GNOME
developers around the NEPOMUK specification have begun in the frame of the
FreeDesktop.org working group.
“A version of the NEPOMUK specification for the Microsoft Windows platform
is being worked on by the NEPOMUK Consortium,” Laurière said. “Since NEPOMUK
is an open specification, its principles can in theory be introduced into
all desktop environments.”
In terms of potential for adoption and development, the NEPOMUK project has
some significant government backing for the European Union.
“One of the criteria for success defined by the EU is about contributing to
the dissemination and helping the adoption of the technological results of
the project,” Laurière stated.
“The contribution we have done to the KDE
project, and the cooperation that has emerged around the NEPOMUK
specifications is an important milestone towards this goal.”
Sebastian Trüg noted that the first milestone of NEPOMUK-KDE has been
achieved with integration with Dolphin in KDE 4.The next milestone will
consist of having several other major KDE applications harness the
capabilities of the framework.
“As usual in the open source world, approval is given by users and
developers,” Trüg said. “We hope that many developers will jump on the
NEPOMUK-KDE wagon, and will build applications we never dreamt of.
hope that the NEPOMUK-KDE work will be a source of inspiration for the
addition of similar semantic features in other major open source desktop
environments, to the benefit of all.”
This article was first published on InternetNews.com.