Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Semantic Web will NOT fail .....

...well, maybe it will not develop as projected by the W3C...but there is something evolving :)
Just to answer the question raised at the DERI blog "The Semantic Web will fail?" and to make a statement to Stephen Downes' post on "Why the Semantic Web will fail".
First thing, I wonder why the DERI blog leaves Downes' statement uncommented. Isn't DERI doing a lot of Semantic Web research? Ok, but let's go into detail. Downes' first thesis is

"The Semantic Web will never work because it depends on businesses working together, on them cooperating."

Does it? Why do inter business relations work...? Although there's competition going on, the benefit of sharing common standards is pretty obvious. Maybe you're right that the Semantic Web will not develop as the W3C projects (just remember ISO/OSI and TCP/IP for the sake of standardization). Maybe it's not possible to design the Semantic Web in a top-down manner. But, on the other hand maybe we will see some bottom-up evolution as in the way of the social web (aka web 2.0). And why not thinking of some hybrid aproach? Then, business will adapt sooner or later...and they will. At least, when they face the situation that semantic technology is required to run money making applications. Maybe we are still lightyears away from what is promised by the Semantic Web, but from my point of view we are just about to see some major changes and developments in the upcoming 5-10 years.

Further he says that
"But the big problem is they believed everyone would work together:
- would agree on web standards (hah!)
- would adopt a common vocabulary (you don't say)
- would reliably expose their APIs so anyone could use them (as if)

The point is that one of the main purposes of the Semantic Web is to get together heterogeneous data. That means data that are coded with different vocabularies (but containing some additional encoded semantic that states how one vocabulary relates to the terms of another). And just look at RDF. There are already a lot of companies that suport RDF in their applications.

Anyway, the criticism is not new. Just remember Peter Norwig's argument...The nice thing about Stephen Downes' post is the discussion below that is definitely worth while reading...