Ontologies are used to capture knowledge about some domain of interest. An ontology describes the concepts in the domain and also the relationships that hold between those concepts. Different ontology languages provide different facilities. The most recent development in standard ontology languages is OWL from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Like Protege, OWL makes it possible to describe concepts but it also provides new facilities. It has a richer set of operators – e.g. intersection, union and negation. It is based on a different logical model which makes it possible for concepts to be defined as well as described. Complex concepts can therefore be built up in definitions out of simpler concepts.
Furthermore, the logical model allows the use of a reasoner which can check whether or not all of the statements and definitions in the ontology are mutually consistent and can also recognise which concepts fit under which definitions. The reasoner can therefore help to maintain the hierarchy correctly. This is particularly useful when dealing with cases where classes can have more than one parent.