Topic maps are a new ISO standard for describing knowledge structures and associating them with information resources. As such they constitute an enabling technology for knowledge management. Dubbed “the GPS of the information universe”, topic maps are also destined to provide powerful new ways of navigating large and interconnected corpora. While it is possible to represent immensely complex structures using topic maps, the basic concepts of the model — Topics, Associations, and Occurrences (TAO) — are easily grasped. This paper provides a non-technical introduction to these and other concepts (the IFS and BUTS of topic maps), relating them to things that are familiar to all of us from the realms of publishing and information management, and attempting to convey some idea of the uses to which topic maps will be put in the future.
This paper shows how topic maps can address the limitations of traditional content management systems while building on their strengths. The term ITMS (Integrated Topic Management System) is coined for a content management system based on topic maps, and the paper shows what is necessary to build such systems, as well as what benefits they bring. The use of the WebDAV protocol to layer topic maps over content stores is also considered, and an abstract topic map-to-content store protocol is sketched, which corresponds very closely to WebDAV.