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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Semantic Web in the News

The Semantic Web has been in the news a bit recently. There was the
buzz about Twine, a "Semantic Web company", getting another round of
funding. Then, Yahoo announced that it will pick up Semantic Web
information from the Web, and use it to enhance search... Text search
engines are of course good for searching the text in documents, but
the Semantic Web isn't text documents, it is data. It isn't obvious
what the killer apps will be -- there are many contenders. We know
that the sort of query you do on data is different: the SPARQL standard
defines a query protocol which allows application builders to query
remote data stores. So that is one sort of query on data which is
different from text search. One thing to always remember is that the
Web of the future will have BOTH documents and data. The Semantic Web
will not supersede the current Web. They will coexist. The techniques
for searching and surfing the different aspects will be different but
will connect. Text search engines don't have to go out of fashion...
The Media Standards Trust is a group which has been working with the
Web Science Research Initiative [...] to develop ways of encoding the
standards of reporting a piece of information purports to meet: "This
is an eye-witness report"; or "This photo has not been massaged apart
from: cropping"; or "The author of the report has no commercial
connection with any products described"; and so on. Like Creative
Commons, which lets you mark your work with a licence, the project
involves representing social dimensions of information. And it is
another Semantic Web application. In all this Semantic Web news, though,
the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The benefit of the Semantic
Web is that data may be re-used in ways unexpected by the original
publisher. That is the value added. So when a Semantic Web start-up
either feeds data to others who reuse it in interesting ways, or itself
uses data produced by others, then we start to see the value of each
bit increased through the network effect.

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