Reviewing the Design of DAML+OIL: An Ontology Language for the Semantic Web

Ian Horrocks, University of Manchester; Peter F. Patel-Schneider, Bell Labs Research; Frank van Harmelen, Vrije Universiteit

In the current "Syntactic Web," uninterpreted syntactic constructs are given meaning only by private off-line agreements that are inaccessible to computers. In the Semantic Web vision, this is replaced by a web where both data and its semantic definition are accessible and manipulable by computer software. DAML+OIL is an ontology language specifically designed for this use in the Web; it exploits existing Web standards (XML and RDF), adding the familiar ontological primitives of object oriented and frame based systems, and the formal rigor of a very expressive description logic. The definition of DAML+OIL is now over a year old, and the language has been in fairly widespread use. In this paper, we review DAML+OIL’s relation with its key ingredients (XML, RDF, OIL, DAML-ONT, Description Logics), we discuss the design decisions and trade-offs that were the basis for the language definition, and identify a number of implementation challenges posed by the current language. These issues are important for designers of other representation languages for the Semantic Web, be they competitors or successors of DAML+OIL, such as the language currently under definition by W3C.

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