Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 5–26 | Cite as

Web of Data and Web of Entities: Identity and Reference in Interlinked Data in the Semantic Web

  • Paolo Bouquet
  • Heiko Stoermer
  • Massimiliano Vignolo
Research Article


Using web standards, such as uniform resource identifiers (URIs), XML and HTTP, for naming and describing resources which are not information objects is the key difference between the Web as we know it today and the Semantic Web. Naming and interlinking this type of resources by HTTP URIs (instead of individual constants in a formal language) is the key feature which distinguishes traditional knowledge representation from web-scale knowledge representation. However, this use of URIs brought back attention to the old philosophical problem of identity and reference in a new form. In this paper, we analyze the new version of the problem, provide a formal model for dealing with it when interlinking knowledge on the Web, and argue for the need of a distinction between the use of URIs for describing and accessing resources, and the use of URIs for fixing the reference. We show that in the current practice of linking data these roles are not clearly distinguished, and that this fact may cause unwanted effects and prevent some basic forms of data integration. We also discuss the role of an entity name system as a potential piece of infrastructure for fixing the reference in the Semantic Web.


Semantic Web Identity Reference Resource Linked data 



This work is partially supported by the FP7 EU Large-Scale Integrating Project OKKAM—Enabling a Web of Entities (contract no. 215032). For more details, visit


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paolo Bouquet
    • 1
  • Heiko Stoermer
    • 2
  • Massimiliano Vignolo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Information Engineering and Computer ScienceUniversity of TrentoTrentoItaly
  2. 2.Fondazione Bruno Kessler Data and Knowledge Management Unit TrentoTrentoItaly

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