MIT CSAIL Decentralized Information Group Mission

The Decentralized Information Group explores technical, institutional and public policy questions necessary to advance the development of global, decentralized information environments.

Based at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the Decentralized Information Group is led by Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. DIG includes researchers who are leaders in technology and public policy domains. DIG's work is closely coordinated with the activities of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the international standards-setting organization for the World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web scales because its architecture is decentralized. There are (mainly) no central bottlenecks physically, socially or conceptually. This group takes this architecture in two directions: where the web architecture could be improved, we look at even more scalable architectures which remove the remaining centralized constraints (such as the social and technical constraints around the domain name system), and we take build on top of the existing web a Semantic Web of self-describing data which allows machine processing across the boundaries of applications and organizations.

Specific areas of research include:

The Semantic Web can be described as doing for Knowledge Representation what the Hypertext WWW did for hypertext. It part of the completion of the original dream of the Web. URIs and HTTP create a universal addressable space of information, allowing things to be given globally unique and dereferencable names. By relaxing traditional constraints of global consistency, we allow the system to grow to a global scale, maintaining local consistency.

Our research pursues practical projects which test these concepts and distinguish areas for future research and possible development of new standards. We look at systems which combine inference and web access; which are aware of the provenance of information, which can trust information from difference sources in different ways, and can reinforce is logical concept of trust with cryptography to make secure systems.

Consistent with the Semantic Web's overall goal of promoting open access to knowledge and computing resources, DIG works with open source tools and produces open source code based on open, publicly specified standards..

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