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Professor Wendy Hall Speaks

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Dame Wendy Hall

Dame Wendy Hall

Credit: Jon Banfield

Dame Wendy Hall, dean of the University of Southampton's new Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences, helped found the Web Science Research Initiative for the purpose of facilitating a formal understanding of the Web. "Partly what I'm passionate about in Web science . . . [is] what makes the Web what it is, how it evolves and will evolve, what are the scenarios that could kill it or change it in ways that would be detrimental to its use," she says.

Hall says the need for the initiative was demonstrated when she discussed with Web pioneer Tim Berners-Lee why the semantic Web has failed to emerge. Berners-Lee determined that the semantic Web concept was commandeered by the artificial intelligence community for the purpose of solving massive problems, when what was needed was for the data to be freed up so that people's use of it could be observed. "What creates the Web are us who put the content on it, and that's not natural or engineered," Hall says.

Among the subjects Hall says can be explored through Web science is how to construct a better future Web by predicting what people would and would not do with it.

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