An Overview


What is Linksailor?

A user friendly way to explore and view Linked Data

Available to try at

First, some history

Predecessor was Dipper, an application that ran wholly in the browser (written in Javascript) that could browse data held in the Talis Platform.

I wrote it to learn how to build in-browser, AJAX driven applications.

Demo follows...

Dipper information design

Dipper employed a number of techniques to increase effectiveness of the information presented:

Dipper advantages

Dipper was designed as an in-browser application which brings several architectural advantages:

Dipper limitations

Dipper had several limitations that made it unsuitable for wide use:


Linksailor was an entirely new creation that took the learnings from Dipper and attempted to overcome them to become a more general purpose utility.

I wrote the bulk of the code in my spare time during the autumn of 2010 and publicly released it at that Christmas.

Specific enhancements

I wanted to resolve the disadvantages of Dipper while retaining the architectural model as far as possible.

Gather not hunt

The standard web browser model involves the user manually hunting for information by clicking links.

Linksailor inverts this by gathering information on behalf of the user using the relationships in the underlying data.

Design principles

Linksailor adheres to a set of underlying design principles:


Focus on viewing the real-world things of interest to a user.

Present descriptions of the primary resource plus related things in lesser detail to give the general context.

Data driven

Use the structured nature of the underlying RDF data to make decisions.

Select appropriate views and behaviours based on the types and relationsips in the data retrieved.

Reach out and explore the graph to discover additional relevant data.

Emphasise signal

Discriminate the data shown to the user.

Remove or hide noisy, irrelevant and repetitive data.

Showing too much data decreases utility.


Allow new types of views, behaviours and data sources to be added easily.

Provide a core framework that can be enhanced by third parties.




Linksailor consists of a client component which runs in the browser, complemented by a server component which mediates access to remote data sources.


Packages and delivers client component code to browser.

Proxies data requests to remote sources.

Dispatcher uses VoiD registry to look up SPARQL endpoints.

URI Resolver fetches content or queries and parses results (RDF, XML, RDFa etc).


Layout engine and scheduler run in infinite loops.

All data received is stored in in-memory graph.

Plugins selected based on graph patterns.

Plugins query and extend graph.

All client data held in a graph

All requested data comes from server as RDF.

Graph grows as plugins request more data.

Discarded when primary resource changes (new page).

RDF/JSON is used so virtually no parsing is needed in client.

Plugins are selected using patterns

Patterns look for:

More sophisticated paths would be a good enhancement.

Plugins may extend the graph

May request additional data needed:

Iterative operation

Each plugin selected by layout engine will generate more requests for data.

Data added to the graph triggers layout engine to rescan plugins.

New data may select additional plugins which are then rendered and may generate yet more data.

Request scheduling

Plugins generate a lot of requests for data.

20-30 on average, sometimes 1000+

Lightning fast due to browser net stack and cache.

Requires throttling, can overwhelm browser since they limit number of concurrent requests.

Plugin anatomy

Plugins consist of:

Layout algorithm

Page is layed out automatically on a simple grid.

Primary, secondary and related plugins for themed presentations of information.

Widget Overview

Overview text plus feature image

Looks for largest description and picks a related image.

Grouped list

Clustered by property, grouped by theme (e.g. identifiers).

Paginated list

Large lists are paginated automatically, also limited to threshold.

Paginated list (2)

Local map plus location detail

Map is automatically zoomed to local level.

Regional map

Lower zoom, shown when primary resource has a geo location.

Points of interest

Shown when more than two geographic points are found in data.


Generated from UPC/EAN/GTIN information.


Experimental use of Google charts.


Generated based on knowledge of sparql endpoint to query.


Table generated from multiple properties.

Image list

Images link to related resources.


Current work

Revamping and streamlining widget system.

Updating main framework to use extensible components such as backbone.js and mustache.js.

Enabling community sharing of plugins.

Next steps

A number of different possible directions for Linksailor.

Several different configurations plus some research areas.

Contact me directly if you are interested in developing Linksailor for your organisation <>

Linksailor in a box

One-click deploy to any site.

Enable theming and branding of the pages.

Configure for a single primary dataset plus optional enrichment from the LOD cloud.

Linksailor dashboard

Re-use plugin system to enable creation of dashboards.

Enable fixed and persistent layouts.

Would need to relax resource-oriented design principle.

Linksailor widgets

Enable plugins to be embedded on any website.

Enhance blogs and other websites with dynamic information.

Research areas

Triple store cache on server, with reasoning support.

More expressive pattern language for plugins.

Pattern evaluation against entire web (as per linkpath.

Interactive widgets, dynamically fed with data.

About this presentation

Ian Davis <>

Permanent link

Licensed under
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

The End

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