Semantic Web is Taking Forever, Right?

As a hardcore Linked-Data/Semantic Web Enthusiast for some time now, say since pre-2007 (back then, I didn’t know what to call it but I understood that it was possible), I can’t help but feel sometimes like it’s never going to happen.  Sometimes a non-silo Web seems like a idealistic fantasy.  Sometimes it seems like nothing is happening.  During the first half of 2007, the amount of excitement in the Sem-Web Category of my feed-reader was high.  Since then, however, the excitement level seems to have diminished quite a bit.  Am I right?

I want to offer a few condolences and some evidence that the Semantic Web is not dead. In fact, I believe it’s still going to “happen.”

  1.  Tim Berners-Lee spoke at TED this year, apparently urging people to unlock their data, according to GigaOm (TED, please publish this video soon, OK?). TED has a quickly growing  amount of influence in the mainstream from what I can tell.  This is good outreach. 
  2. JavaScript support for querying more than one URL/Site/Database at a time is coming to a browser near you very soon, according to John Resig via this talk at Google. We’ve seen a lot of new APIs allowing programmers to access certain data from certain places, but more promising to me than these limited and proprietary APIs that have been sprouting up is how HTML itself is increasingly becoming more ‘semantic,’ if for no other reason, because it allows coders to do more interesting and elegant things with CSS and JavaScript… Where this is heading, I think, is toward a future where pages are basically designed to be scraped, a sort of Microformat revolution (albeit totally rag-tag). Once the cat is out of the bag, I really believe embedded HTML semantics will become more and more standardised because of the incremental benefits resulting for the publishers of the content.  What I’m talking about here is mainly Classes and ID’s in HTML.  Give it some time. Those things are basically Microformats waiting to happen.  Right? 
  3. Last but not least, remember that the emergence of “Linked Data” will probably seem to explode at a certain point, even though the buzz seems to have slowed down in the echo chamber.  There’s a great little analogy I came across where data are compared to buttons being threaded together from one to the next, randomly and one connection at a time.  How many random single connections need to be made before picking up one button will bring all the others along?  The results are reassuring. Check it out over at the Data Evolution Blog, the newest feed in my Feed-Reader.

    One Reply to “Semantic Web is Taking Forever, Right?”

    1. Andrew – Thanks for the mention. I didn’t realize until Tim Berners-Lee’s talk at TED this year that Linked Data was such a significant meme in the semantic web space. Nonetheless, we would all do well to re-read the works of complex network researchers — from Herbert Simon to Stu Kauffman to Duncan Watts — as much of what they’ve written is only beginning to have relevance.

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