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Web Services 'Wizard' May Help Computers Do People's Work, Scientist Says

In the article Web Services 'Wizard' May Help Computers Do People's Work, Scientist Says, ScienceDaily reports:

Many web services exist today to allow people to find information on websites. But machines can't negotiate with other machines or engage in rudimentary deductive reasoning, as Petrie envisions. Computers use the standard Web Services Description Language (WSDL) put forth by W3C, a consortium established by web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, to understand input messages and deliver output messages in the same language.

But even if a standard way of describing computer services exists on the web, each description uses different terms. A person planning a trip can go to an airline website and find flight information. But machines charged with the same task fail. "Flight" may be abbreviated as "flt" on one carrier's website but as "flite" on another's.

"A human can look at those two words and know that must be the same thing, but a machine has no idea," Petrie says. That makes it difficult for web services to search multiple sites, retrieve desired information and present a menu of options.

Existing web services lack a common understanding of terms. The way to fix this, Petrie says, is to develop formal semantics, or logical expressions from which meaning can be inferred. The challenge is that some formalisms are expressive but too hard to compute, while others are easy to compute but insufficiently expressive.

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