Monday, June 30, 2008

State of the Semantic Web

Danny Ayers has put out a query on a couple of the W3C email lists about the "State of the Semantic Web." I emailed him my current view:

I am personally interested in the "state" of the distinction between "Semantic Technologies" (or "Semantic Web Technologies") and the original vision of the Semantic Web. There is certainly a lot of usage of XML and RSS and even RDF, but how much of that is for relatively simply "data exchange" as opposed to allowing open-system intelligent software agents to make inferences on that data beyond the kind of processing that one word do in an object-oriented programming language, remote procedure call, relational database access, and old-fashioned business rules processing?

The true Semantic Web was supposed to be a lot more than simply replacing proprietary data formats with some common data format, and a lot of the discussions on ontologies seem to headed more in the direction of a multiplicity of Towers of Babel rather than some form of common interchange of knowledge.

That said, I think that this is a reasonable state of affairs for this stage of a bold, new technology venture and probably where we should be about now since a lot of the open-system and intelligent agent inferencing requires a lot more fundamental research and evolution towards de facto "standards" for even simple, common knowledge.

We will be unable to achieve "brilliance" for the overall Semantic Web until we are at least able to easily construct "islands of brilliance" (specific domains or applications) and then and only then can we have even a remote chance of figuring out how to "bridge" between those islands to achieve truly impressive "archipelagos of brilliance", let alone some semblance of a "universe of brilliance" that has a sense of connectedness comparable to today's text and graphics Web.

At least this is what I will claim for my own humble opinion.

-- Jack Krupansky