Semantic Web/Intertwining: Difficult, But Important

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Although the Semantic Web as a whole is still very much at a grassroots kind of level, people are starting to take notice; they're starting to publish information using RDF, and thereby making it fit for the Semantic Web.

However, not enough is being done to link information together... in other words, the "Semantic" part of the "Semantic Web" is coming along nicely, but where's the "Web"? People are not using other people's terms effectively; when they use other terms, they often do so because they're aimlessly trying to help, but just generating noise in the process. If you're going to use other people's data, try to find out what the advantage is in doing that beforehand. For example, just because you use the term "dc:title" in your RDF rather than a home brewed ":title", does that mean that suddenly a Dublin Core application is going to be able to "understand" your code? Of course not. What it does mean however is that if the "dc:title" property in your instance is being put to use in such a way that information may be need to repurposed from it in the near future, then you may gain some advantage because "dc:title" is such a commonly used term, you may be able to modify a current rules file, or whatever.

Another part of the problem may be due to a problem similar to the one that the early World Wide Web experienced: why bother publishing a Web site when there is no one else's site to link to or be linked to? Why bother publishing a Web site when so few people have browsers? Why bother writing a browser when there are so few Web sites? Some people have to make the leaps for it all to happen, and that's a slow process.

What can be done about the situation? Well, it may hopefully sort itself out. Another well-known principle that applies very well to Semantic Web applications is that there is no point in reinventing the wheel; viz., if someone has already invented a schema which contains a comprehensive and well understood and used set of terms that you also need to use in your application, then there is no point in trying to redo the work that they have done. At some points this may lead to a form of "schema war", but survival of the fittest should see to it that a core of the best schemata are put to the most use. This is probably what TimBL means when he says that terms will just "emerge" out of the Semantic Cloud, that when people keep using the term "zip", rather than just recording that my term "zip" is equivalent to your term "zip" which is equivalent to someone else's term "zip", we'll all just use the same URI, and hence interoperability will be vastly improved. Does It Work? What Semantic Web Applications Are There?

I addressed this in a previous article: The Semantic Web: Taking Form, but it does bear repeating: the Semantic Web already works, and people are using it.