The Semantic Web – It’s Here to Stay!

How's a girl to choose?This week in our MIT class, Robin Fay with the University of Georgia spoke concerning the Semantic Web (view her presentation).  I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to get a better understanding of the concept and looking for examples of the technology.  I found several worth mentioning.  But first, let’s talk about the Semantic Web!

The Semantic Web is part of Web 3.0 or the next generation of the Web.  If you look at the Web’s evolution, Web 1.0 is generally thought of as the initial World Wide Web, a collection of static html pages with very little interactivity.  With the growth of web programmability, the Web experience expanded to include database driven sites, scripts, widgets and plug-ins, and most importantly – interactivity.  With the growth of sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, sites with user generated content, Web 2.0 or the Social Web emerged.  And now, we sit at the dawn of Web 3.0.

But what does that mean? Web 3.0, also known as the Semantic Web or the Data Web, will no longer provide information only intended for human readers.  The Semantic Web will require information to be encapsulated by such tools as Resource Description Framework (RDF) and Web Ontology Language (OWL) so that is it can be read and processed or “understood” by machines.  Not only will the information be available, but information about the information along with its relationships will be readily accessible enabling intelligent information services, personalized Web-sites, and semantically empowered search-engines.  As Robin stated, “we teach it, it learns”.

We are beginning to see applications emerge that part of the new Web 3.0. These applications act intelligently, learning from user experiences or associating previously disconnected data.   For example, StumbleUpon, a content-discovery service, allows users to input areas of interest and through a tailored process that includes a classification engine, a clustering engine and friend recommendations, provides content that have been recommended by people with similar interests. Spock, a search engine about people, scans the web for common information about people – names, birthdays, locations, marital status, etc.  Spock “understands” that people relate to each other and connects this previously disconnected data.

TwineAnd finally, Twine, an actual Semantic Web application, built using RDF and OWL, categorizes and analyzes user stored data from web sites, emails or YouTube videos and creates associations and recommendations.   In addition to employing the Semantic Web standards, Twine uses natural-language processing algorithms and extremely advanced machine learning making intelligent connections between content, mapping relationships, and alerting users to content that previously would not have been identified (Source:  Technology Review).  There is a very interesting discussion on Twine’s use of RDF and OWL and how they accomplish this mapping on the Technology section of their web site.

In conclusion, the Semantic Web is a collection of standards, data structures, and software that make the online experience more relevant, detailed, and intelligent.  Based on the usability of the emerging Web 3.0 applications, the future looks bright!

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About Susan
I'm a wife, mother and student living in the suburbs of Atlanta. After 20 years in corporate IT, I am currently working for a non-profit as Director of Operations.

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