W3C Opens Data on the Web with SPARQL

Author(s) and publish date


Powerful Technology for Querying Distributed and Diverse Data



http://www.w3.org/ -- 15 January 2008 -- W3C announced today the publication of SPARQL, the key standard for opening up data on the Semantic Web. With SPARQL query technology, pronounced "sparkle," people can focus on what they want to know rather than on the database technology or data format used behind the scenes to store the data. Because SPARQL queries express high-level goals, it is easier to extend them to unanticipated data sources, or even to port them to new applications.

"Trying to use the Semantic Web without SPARQL is like trying to use a relational database without SQL," explained Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director. "SPARQL makes it possible to query information from databases and other diverse sources in the wild, across the Web."

There are already 14 known implementations of SPARQL, many of which are open source.

SPARQL Overcomes Traditional Query Language Limitations of Local Searches, Single Formats

Many successful query languages exist, including standards such as SQL and XQuery. These were primarily designed for queries limited to a single product, format, type of information, or local data store. Traditionally, it has been necessary to formulate the same high-level query differently depending on application or the specific arrangement chosen for the relational database. And when querying multiple data sources it has been necessary to write logic to merge the results. These limitations have imposed higher developer costs and created barriers to incorporating new data sources.

The goal of the Semantic Web is to enable people to share, merge, and reuse data globally. SPARQL is designed for use at the scale of the Web, and thus enables queries over distributed data sources, independent of format. Creating a single query across diverse data stores is easier than having to create multiple queries; it also costs less and provides richer results.

Because SPARQL has no tie to a specific database format, it can be used to take advantage of the tidal wave of Web 2.0 data and mash it up with other Semantic Web resources. Furthermore, because disparate data sources may not have the same 'shape' or share the same properties, SPARQL is designed to query non-uniform data.

SPARQL Turns Data Access into a Web Service

The combination of the SPARQL query language and protocol creates a Web service in its purest sense; running on top of HTTP or SOAP, it provides a standard Web service for anything which asks a question.

"SPARQL's focus on querying the data models saves time for developers; there's no need for a host of little Web services to retrieve different aspects of the state of a system," explained Lee Feigenbaum, Chair of the RDF Data Access Working Group. "This allows the user of the SPARQL endpoint to ask any question -- it is as though they could design their own interface instead of having to work with a limited set of fixed services."

The SPARQL specification defines a query language and a protocol and works with the other core Semantic Web technologies from W3C: Resource Description Framework (RDF) for representing data; RDF Schema; Web Ontology Language (OWL) for building vocabularies; and Gleaning Resource Descriptions from Dialects of Languages (GRDDL), for automatically extracting Semantic Web data from documents. SPARQL also makes use of other W3C standards found in Web services implementations, such as Web Services Description Language (WSDL).

W3C's Data Access Working Group Includes Industry Leaders in Database Technology, Web Applications

W3C RDF Data Access Working Group produced the three SPARQL Recommendations issued today: the SPARQL Query Language for RDF, The SPARQL Protocol for RDF, and the SPARQL Query Results XML Format. The Working Group includes invited experts and participants from Agfa-Gevaert N. V.; Asemantics S.R.L.; Clark & Parsia LLC; Cleveland Clinic; Eindhoven University of Technology; Free University of Bozen-Bolzano; Garlik; HP; IBM Corporation; Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (MEI); Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. (NTT); OpenLink Software; Oracle; and Profium, Ltd. The SPARQL Testimonials page contains statements of support and commitments to implement the new Recommendations.

W3C continues to enhance the relationship between the Semantic Web and traditional databases; see the report from the W3C Workshop on RDF Access to Relational Databases from October 2007.

About the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C]

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international consortium where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. W3C primarily pursues its mission through the creation of Web standards and guidelines designed to ensure long-term growth for the Web. Over 400 organizations are Members of the Consortium. W3C is jointly run by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France and Keio University in Japan,and has additional Offices worldwide. For more information see http://www.w3.org/


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Testimonials for "W3C Opens Data on the Web with SPARQL" Press Release

Asemantics | Clark & Parsia | Computas AS | CWI | Eli Lilly | Garlik | Hewlett-Packard | INRIA | OpenLink Software | Oracle | Profium | Talis



Asemantics S.r.l., the European Semantic Web company has been actively contributing to the W3C DAWG standardization process and successfully deploying W3C's SPARQL query language and protocol based real-world solutions inside public and private sector; for the European Space Agency (ESA/ESRIN) we successfully built ad-hoc dynamic satellite image galleries and an EO interoperability catalog search engine using the SPARQL. We worked together with Rijkswaterstaat (the Dutch Water Authority) to create an RDF based library of national water measurement data about more than four centuries of different physical and biological measurements related to sea, coastal and inland water; catalog and detailed search are internally being performed using SPARQL. Inside the Joost venture we successfully used RDF related technologies including the SPARQL query and language and protocol to build dynamic and flexible digital asset management tools to bridge content owners, metadata engineering and management related workflows. We are working together with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to build a next generation feed aggregator inside the Memoryshare initiative which internally stores information in RDF in order to preserve all richness of the original information and all relations among the data; which is then being queried dynamically using the SPARQL query language.

Asemantics see SPARQL as a major W3C contribution which will enable next generation Internet semantic applications in the mainstream.

-- Alberto Reggiori, CTO Asemantics S.r.l.

Clark & Parsia

Clark & Parsia LLC recognizes SPARQL as an important development in the evolution of the Semantic Web. By providing a standard query language for RDF, SPARQL offers developers a "universal query language" that can be used to access information stored in a wide range of systems, including metadata repositories, web services, and legacy information systems. Clark & Parsia supports SPARQL query answering in its OWL DL reasoner Pellet and is readying the first Pellet release with SPARQL extensions for OWL DL. -- Michael Smith, Senior Engineer and W3C AC Representative, Clark & Parsia LLC

Computas AS

Computas AS is currently building systems for its customers where SPARQL is a fundamental core component. When conducting feasibility studies, we found that there are allready many high quality off-the-shelf components that puts the vision of the data web within reach, also for smaller enterprises.

We are pleased to see SPARQL promoted to a W3C Recommendation, as it provides a stable platform for further work. We are allready experimenting with extensions to SPARQL, and will work with the W3C and its membership in the work that lies ahead.

-- Kjetil Kjernsmo, Senior Knowledge Engineer, Computas AS


CWI is a strong supporter of the W3C activities in general and of the steps taken towards a standardization of SPARQL in particular. Use of SPARQL significantly improves the bridge between data- and document-oriented information. CWI's contribution will bear fruit in its ongoing activities on the open source database management system MonetDB/{SQL,XQuery}, which will soon evolve into MonetDB/SPARQL.

Prof. Dr. J.K. Lenstra, Director, CWI

Eli Lilly

Eli Lilly and Company is a world leader in innovative applications of technology to discover and develop pharmaceutical products to better people's lives. Accordingly, Lilly is using W3C Semantic Web technologies to help scientists gather information about drug targets, and maintain knowledge about experiments. In particular, we use the SPARQL query language in conjunction with an OWL ontology to find out information about experiments that have been undertaken. We are pleased to see SPARQL become a W3C Recommendation. -- Susie Stephens, Principal Research Scientist for Open Innovation, Eli Lilly


Garlik make extensive use of the W3C's SPARQL query language andprotocol. Two of our Products, DataPatrol and QDOS use SPARQLcompliant RDF stores as their core data store.DataPatrol uses SPARQL as an access point to a large, complex andrapidly changing data structure, while building on top of HTTP hasallowed us to provide high levels of security in a standards complaintway.QDOS uses SPARQL to provide a standards compliant, web accessiblebackend for a Web 2.0 platform. SPARQL provides a ready-made HTTP-basedquery interface which is capable of providing third party developers withaccess to public data.

-- Tom Ilube, Founder & CEO, Garlik


Hewlett-Packard is pleased to support the SPARQL Recommendations.

SPARQL is a key element for integrated information access across information silos and across business boundaries. HP customers can benefit from better information utilization by employing semantic web technologies.

HP's Jena Semantic Web framework has a complete implementation of query language, protocol and result set processing. Jena is open-source, freely available, with a large and active developer community.

HP is pleased to announce the first full release of SDB, a new SPARQL database system for Jena that leverages existing database installations to give enterprise-grade storage and query of RDF.

-- Jean-Luc Chatelain, CTO HP Software Information Management


The SPARQL Recommendation sets the standard for querying RDF data. INRIA is very pleased with the W3C efforts converging towards a robust query language that will offer a common way to extract RDF data from the Semantic Web. INRIA teams have invested efforts in implementing the Recommendation and deliver right away SPARQL-compliant tools. The CORESE search engine for the semantic web can evaluate SPARQL queries against RDF, OWL and rule content. We also developed PSPARQL: a query language which can express all SPARQL queries as well as extensions with path expressions allowing more general queries. A PSPARQL query engine is also available.

-- Pierre Paradinas, Head of Technological Development, INRIA

SPARQL bridges the gap between the vision and the manifestation of a Web of semantically interlinked data (Linked Data). This powerful mechanism helps expose and explain the data integration prowess of our Virtuoso Universal Server and OpenLink Data Spaces products, across all levels of the Internet, Intranet, and Extranet.

By leveraging Web architecture in devising this standard -- comprised of an open query language, communications protocol, and results serialization format -- the W3C has ingeniously delivered an unobtrusive bridge between the current Web of Documents and the emerging Web of Linked Data. SPARQL will ultimately enhance the value of the Web for everyone.

-- Kingsley Idehen, President & CEO, OpenLink Software


Oracle congratulates the W3C on achieving 'Recommendation' status for SPARQL. As an active participant in this working group, Oracle believes the standardization of SPARQL will play an instrumental role in achieving the vision of the Semantic Web. The community's work is intended to help organizations more effectively discover, automate, integrate and re-use data across various applications.

Oracle Database 11g Semantic Store provides native support for efficient and scalable storage, bulk loading, inferencing, and graph-pattern based querying of semantic data represented using W3C's RDF, RDFS, and OWL languages. The Oracle Jena adaptor allows querying of semantic data stored in Oracle using the SPARQL query language while leveraging the performance and scalability of Oracle's Semantic Store.

-- Don Deutsch, vice president Standards Strategy and Architecture, Oracle


Profium provides software solutions for rich digital content management by leveraging the latest Semantic Web technologies. Our software solutions provide for multimedia archiving, centralized metadata management and real-time routing of content for cross-media publishing. Profium's Metadata Server product uses RDF data model and SPARQL as query language and for us, a standardized query language has been a most welcome addition to the Semantic Web technology stack and we foresee great interoperability possibilities in the future.

-- Jari Harjula, Product manager, Profium Ltd.


Talis is delighted to see the publication of the SPARQL Recommendations. We believe that this is an important milestone in making the Semantic Web usable for a broad class of applications in the enterprise. The Talis Semantic Web Platform provides its users with services using the SPARQL query language and protocol to allow searching of their data. We look forward to SPARQL being incorporated in many more applications enabling Web-scale integration of data between and within organisations.

-- Ian Davis, CTO, Talis Group Ltd


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