"The reason people invest their lives and careers (working on new technology) is that they don't expect some company to come into take it away from them," Berners-Lee said. "Just the rumor of patents and royalties will put a two years stop in development -- we can't afford that."
Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization that sets guidelines for the Web, gave attendees, many of them CIOs, a high-level overview of the Semantic Web
Driving this dynamic tool is Resource Description Framework (RDF), a language designed to support the Semantic Web in much the same way that HTML is the language that helped initiate the original Web.
RDF supports resource description, or metadata (data about data), for the Web. RDF provides common structures that can be used for interoperable XML data exchange. RDF follows the W3C design principles of interoperability, evolution, and decentralization.
"My advice to companies is to have their engineers learn RDF," Berners-Lee said. "Don't expect shrink-wrapped products but get information into RDF format. As tools come along you'll be able to do more with it."
He also encouraged companies to discuss standards and common terminology with others in the industry, so that when the Semantic Web is functioning, there is more interoperability.
In other W3C news, the organization accelerated its international expansion with a new office in Korea.
W3C, which counts 500 tech companies among its members and is based in Cambridge, Mass., currently has offices in Australia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Korea, Morocco, The Netherlands, Sweden and the U.K.
The group also recently announced its recommendations for P3P, a standard for expressing Web site privacy policies.
Colin C. Haley is managing editor of boston.internet.com.