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W3C Introduces SKOS - Simple Knowledge Organization System

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Expanding its Semantic Web technology stack, the W3C (World Wide Consortium ) announced this week a standard to bridge knowledge organization systems like classifications, thesauri, and taxonomies to linked data.

The Semantic Web is intended to make it easier to search for relevant documents and information on the Web. With the W3C SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization System) standard, enterprises, social networking applications, government portals, and others managing large collections of items, such as books, news reports, and blog entries, can leverage linked data capabilities.  SKOS provides a model for expressing basic structure and content of concepts, such as thesauri, subject heading lists, and taxonomies. Different communities can use SKOS to link vocabularies to the Semantic Web.

SKOS enables subject headings to be used to broaden or narrow queries for discovering resources. By publishing subject headings in SKOS, the U.S. Library of Congress, for example, has made them available to the "linked data community," W3C said. For example, a query about books on Chinese literature can be narrowed to "Chinese drama" or "Chinese children's plays." New routes are created for discovering information.

"Active participation from the library and information science  community in the development of SKOS over the past seven years has been key to ensuring that SKOS meets a variety of needs.  One goal in creating SKOS was to provide new uses for well-established knowledge organization systems by providing a bridge to the linked data cloud." - Thomas Baker, co-chair of the Semantic Web Deployment Working Group

Serving as an application of the W3C RDF (Resource Description Framework), SKOS is part of a Semantic Web stack that also includes such technologies as OWL (Web Ontology Language). While both SKOS and OWL can be used to define vocabularies, SKOS differs in that it is a simple language with just a few features tuned for sharing and linking knowledge organization systems. OWL offers a general framework for knowledge representation and offers additional capabilities in spaces such as business rule processing.

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