Many organisations use linked data to publish data on the internet. The internet, in principle, allows organisations to display and communicate data and information effectively and end users to access it freely and easily.
Several players support or use W3C RDF and related linked open data standards for linked data publishing, including Oracle. Microsoft has taken a different approach both to the technology and its message.
The semantic web connects sets of information that can then be interpreted by machines. Linking the metadata and creating a standard makes it easier for computers to process, and for people to use the data.
I believe that Microsoft has looked at the Resource Descriptive Framework (RDF) standard from W3C, but there are currently no public offerings that support this and the related family of standards.
This leaves it to third parties to provide compatible offerings. Microsoft has decided to develop and publish its own open data solution, OData.
OData has been positioned as an open data standard that supports the publishing and updating of data on the web or within an enterprise network.
By defining its own data standard, Microsoft has been able to move quickly into the open data market, keeping plenty of control over software applications and optimising compatibility with its own programmes.
Linked data is still in the early adopter phase in the UK, with public sector organisations being the main users so far.
Currently, producers that expose data via the Odata protocol include eBay, Netflix, Windows Live and Facebook Insights. With some government organisations adopting the W3C stack and the general uptake of OData, there are now two different protocols competing to become the definitive open data standard.
Linked open data allows different unconnected data sources to be connected via URL, but this doesn't work so well if the data structure it is being linked to is not consistent and interoperable.
Common conventions can be defined to enable consumers of RDF Linked Data to consume and process OData. Also, OData could be standardised by W3C or ISO.
These developments point to a time when data can be more easily opened up, linked and made public – if standardisation can be achieved.
If the standards work together, vendors will be able to design solutions that will bridge the gap.
End users will also have a choice of linked data standard, which could benefit both internal and external communications – increasing transparency.
Graham Moore is a director at NetworkedPlanet
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