Ontologies are the structural frameworks for organizing information on the semantic Web and within semantic enterprises. They provide unique benefits indiscovery,flexible access, andinformation integration due to their inherent ; that is, their ability to represent conceptual relationships. Ontologies can be layered on top of existing information assets, which means they are anenhancement and not a displacement for prior investments. And ontologies may be developed and matured incrementally, which means their adoption may becost-effective as benefits become evident.
What Is an Ontology?
Ontology may be one of the more daunting terms for those exposed for the first time to semantic technologies. Not only is the word long and without common antecedents, but it is also a term that has widely divergent use and understanding within the community. It can be argued that this not-so-little word is one of the barriers to mainstream understanding of the semantic Web.
The root of the term is the Greekontos, orbeing orthe nature of things. Literally — and in classical philosophy — ontology was used in relation to the study of the nature of being or the world,the nature of existence.Tom Gruber, among others, made the term popular in relation tocomputer science and artificial intelligenceabout 15 years ago when he defined ontology as a “formal specification of a conceptualization.”
Much like taxonomies or relational database schema, ontologies work to organize information. No matter what the domain or scope, an ontology is a description of a world view. That view might be limited and miniscule, or it might be global and expansive. However, unlike those alternative hierarchical views of concepts such as taxonomies, ontologies often have a linked or networked “graph” structure. Multiple things can be related to other things, all in a potentially multi-way series of relationships.