Four Lessons in Versatility or How Query Languages Adapt to the Web
Lecture Notes in Computer Science
Exposing not only human-centered information, but machine-processable data on the Web is one of the commonalities of recent Web trends. It has enabled a new kind of applications and businesses where the data is used in ways not foreseen by the data providers. Yet this exposition has fractured the Web into islands of data, each in different Web formats: Some providers choose XML, others RDF, again others JSON or OWL, for their data, even in similar domains. This fracturing stifles innovation as
... pplication builders have to cope not only with one Web stack (e.g., XML technology) but with several ones, each of considerable complexity. With Xcerpt we have developed a rule-and pattern based query language that aims to give shield application builders from much of this complexity: In a single query language XML and RDF data can be accessed, processed, combined, and re-published. Though the need for combined access to XML and RDF data has been recognized in previous work (including the W3C's GRDDL), our approach differs in four main aspects: (1) We provide a single language (rather than two separate or embedded languages), thus minimizing the conceptual overhead of dealing with disparate data formats. (2) Both the declarative (logic-based) and the operational semantics are unified in that they apply for querying XML and RDF in the same way. (3) We show that the resulting query language can be implemented reusing traditional database technology, if desirable. Nevertheless, we also give a unified evaluation approach based on interval labelings of graphs that is at least as fast as existing approaches for tree-shaped XML data, yet provides linear time and space querying also for many RDF graphs. We believe that Web query languages are the right tool for declarative data access in Web applications and that Xcerpt is a significant step towards a more convenient, yet highly efficient data access in a "Web of Data".