Edwin’s article about the “history of the web” really got me thinking what the web will be like years from now. The Semantic Web could possibly play a major role in the evolution of the World Wide Web. In general terms, The Semantic web is an extension of the World Wide Web where information is more standardized and better defined so that it is easier for computers to understand exactly what people are looking for on the web.
W3C director Tim Berners-Lee, a visionary behind The Semantic Web, explains more here . . . “I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.”
So what changes need to be made to make this possible? The major requirement is a markup language more data oriented than the current convention of HTML. While HTML uses “meta tags” to provide a way for computers to categorize content on web pages, the semantic web will require documents to be published in the data specific language RDF, or Resource Description Framework. This RDF format is what will allow human perception to be understood by computers so that data is better filed and handled. While HTML describes documents and links between them, RDF describes arbitrary things such as people, meetings, or events.
While there defiantly are some clear benefits to the semantic web, there are draw backs as well. Is the idea all together unrealistic? The idea of a semantic web isn’t new. Berners-Lee’s 2001 article in Scientific American discussed the topic and we have yet to see implementation. Censorship and privacy also becomes an issue. The semantic web would make is much easier for governments to control the viewing and creation of online information. One last major concern is the amount of time it would take to publish content in this new format. Not only are we creating a document for the human reader, but an additional format for the computer. However, this problem is being addressed through the possible use of web aps creating a machine-readable format upon the publishing of data or the request of a machine for such data.
It will definitely be interesting to see what the future has to offer.