Semantic Web Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

After reading Semantic Web: Difficulties with the Classic Approach, I am even more certain that we're putting too many expectations on the semantic web. The semantic web doesn't have to be difficult to build or use. It simply starts with resetting expectations and re-branding.

To start, the semantic web needs to be re-branded as the Data Web. Now take a deep breath. Doesn't the air feel lighter and taste sweeter? That's because the heaviness of the baggage brought along by the word "semantic" is gone. People see semantic and go all screwy: "Replace humans with computers?" or "How do you deal with uncertainty?" or "How do we agree on what we mean by agreement?" or "A.I. never worked."

Even Tim B.L. thinks that the name "semantic web" isn't very good:

I don't think it's a very good name but we're stuck with it now. The word semantics is used by different groups to mean different things. But now people understand that the Semantic Web is the Data Web. I think we could have called it the Data Web. It would have been simpler.

What does it mean to have a data web? To me, it means that the underlying data that powers the web page/site/application is exposed to the web via URIs. The data web is about pulling up all those databases that live under a web application and placing them squarely on the web. Placing something on the web simply means giving it a URI and, often times, making sure a representation is returned when you dereference the URI.

We already have databases, we already have web servers, we already have HTTP, we already have URIs. The pieces are in place. We just aren't in the habit of publishing machine readable data, as often times the data is seen as the heavily protected intellectual property. This is a mind set issue that will be changed over time as people and businesses figure out how to make money off of data (hey Google, figure out AdSense for RDF or connect all the data together, expose it to end users, and place ads on it (or wait, they already do that)).

Repeat after me: Data Web, Data Web, Data Web. Put my data on the web. Give it a URI. Create a Web of Data.

Semantics: old 'n busted. Data: the new hotness.

(note to self, put money where mouth is)

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