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Open Source Release of our Zazuko Ontology Manager

Today we announce the open source release of our Zazuko Ontology Manager. This is something we've been working on for a while and we planned to release it as open source pretty much since we've started working on it for a customer of ours.

You can find the open source version on GitHub, released under the AGPL license.

This is what we write about it on the product page:

The Zazuko Ontology Manager (ZOM) is a web application for serving, browsing and modeling RDF Schemas and Ontologies. It supports the full process of creating, publishing and extending an ontology. ZOM's user interface has been designed for teams of domain specialists working jointly on an ontology. No specific ontology modeling knowledge is required to use the editor. ZOM leverages GitHub to store the ontology, but carefully hides the complexity of serializing the schema into RDF triples from users of the editor.

We believe creating, editing and evolving an ontology is easiest done using a collaborative web platform designed specifically for this use case, allowing all actors to reach consensus gradually, using asynchronous proposals, discussions and votes.

I joined the Linked Data domain a bit over 10 years ago so I missed the early days but I did notice this "ivory towers approach" to schema and ontology design: Tell a closed group of people to model the world and they will, for months, often without any outside feedback. The result might be a very powerful ontology but I also noticed that it leads to ontologies very few people actually understand and use in the real world.

schema.org completely changed that game, they defined a community process and started to do rolling releases instead. That is for me the single most valuable thing schema.org introduced: An open approach with a vivid community and an ongoing process where it can evolve. We explained that process to our customer as a successful example of collaborative schema design, after they asked us to implement this approach in a web application. Because a common schema should stay open, and always accessible, it should ideally live on a Git forge (e.g. GitHub) but domain specialists should not have to directly interact with the repository.

The result is the 1.0 release of our Ontology Manager which you now can start using in your own projects! If you want to play with it just login with a valid GitHub account on editor.zazuko.com and create some proposals. There is also an administrative view where you can accept and reject proposals, if you would like to become administrator, let us know so you can see how this view looks like. Once a proposal is accepted, it will show up as new Git commits with triples in the according GitHub repository for this instance.

The web application for Ontology Management in action

As always with software, there are a few things we would do differently if we would start from scratch again. Users, discussions & proposals are stored in a relational database, ideally this should be modeled in RDF as well sooner or later. But nevertheless, it is something you can start using and we think it provides a useful abstraction for the schema creation process aimed at domain specialists.

We obviously have a lot of ideas what should be in 2.0 version of the Ontology Manager, if it will happen also depends on you! We are happy to get feedback about what works for you and what doesn't.

We offer commercial licenses and support for the software and are happy to host it for you, either in the public cloud or in your own intranet in case this is something you need for your company. Just get in contact with us!