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Community Webs

The World Wide Web originated in 1990 and was designed to function as a knowledge and information based tool within the community of physics researchers. The tool's functionality and the expected online commercial revenues have boosted the web's popularity exponentially. Recently there has also been a renewed interest for webs supporting communities, for example people that share common objectives and/or some common background knowledge. The current project, C-Web has designed and developed such a community web. It is a generic and open technology that bridges existing gaps between data, documents and knowledge shared by the community.

Digital Economy

The Internet or the World Wide Web is to a considerable extent being used for its network of services and for information retrieval. The vast majority of users visit the Web to retrieve information and content. They are passive readers apart from the exceptional case where someone may produce information at a certain web-site, but even in this case the passive character is present for all other sites. In contrast, community webs support knowledge and documentation sharing in open large-scale communities where community members share a common body of background knowledge. Such communities can be scientific research communities, business corporations or organisations. Users of community webs are all active whereas users of the Internet are comprised of a small set of information producers and a much larger set of information consumers. In a community web all users can build and share knowledge. Knowledge units are linked by semantic relations allowing much efficient querying and browsing. The C-Web project has designed and developed a generic platform based on open standards and distributed as an open source. It also comprises all necessary methodology and know-how to support community webs. C-Web manages arbitrary resources types that can be retrieved from heterogeneous databases and information repositories. The innovative functionality of C-Web relies mainly on five general functions: Its ability to support a schema edition such as a set of classes or concepts and the relations between them. A C-Web schema can be thought of as the necessary interconnection between knowledge sets within a documentation database. C-Web should also support the authoring of elementary resourses, as the active role of the user is very important. The project will use already existing authoring protocols, which will be upgraded and expanded. Querying will use meaningful concepts defined in the conceptual model of C-Web. Document generation is one of the most original features of C-Web since information retrieved from different repositories can be “merged” in a dynamically generated document. The last function is browsing. Through the search functionality, a C-Web offers the service of a database in which information resources are indexed using a structured and flexible metadata system. The C-Web project will validate the software platform and the methodology developed through experiments carried out with two different communities. The project has currently reached the end of the first phase and has published technical reports on the proposed C-Web system architecture.

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