Most people have probably heard the term Web 2.0, a reference to the second stage of development of the World Wide Web. The 2.0 generation of internet is mostly about the change from static web pages to dynamic content and the growth of social media. Online content went from static and individualistic to interactive and social. This expanded the number of individuals who used the internet and allowed for more connectivity, which is what the web is all about. Next step: Web 3.0, also known as the Semantic Web. The concept can be a difficult one to grasp, so let’s start with an explainer.
Computing That Understands Context
The term Semantic Web is a term coined by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web. He used this phrase as a way to talk about a web for data that can be processed by machines. In other words, data that a computer can read and then use to make connections with other related data. This would be achieved through structure and a tagging system. Semantic Web technologies enable people to create data stores on the Web, build vocabularies, and write rules for handling data.
The idea behind a Semantic Web is that it will allow your computer to understand context. This new usability would transform our computers from passively helping us gather information to actively helping us through a better understanding of what we seek. The technology is still being developed, although some of the related ideas are already being used. Resource description framework in attributes (RDFa) embeds rich metadata within web documents in an XML language. Microformats, working within HTML code, provide additional formatting and semantic data that applications can use. Both of these technologies function to provide more information, helping a computer understand content.
Online Video Benefits from Semantic Web
The Semantic Web as described above should allow searches to bring up more relevant content for a variety of purposes. This would make online videos more searchable. A properly tagged video tagged would appear in searches that consider much more than the video’s title. All sorts of information covered in the video would be relevant in the Semantic Web.
We already see this kind of technology being used on YouTube through mechanisms such as subtitles. This shows that the web is getting more intelligent and evolving to include comprehension. Semantics consider the look and feel of a video beyond text. For example, the Semantic Web would be able to detect music and its feeling. If you search sad puppy, YouTube may be able to bring up a video of a puppy with sad music behind it, rather than results only for a sad puppy or a video with the title “Sad Puppy”. Once the semantics of what we are searching are better understood, our computers will be able to find more targeted and relevant content.
Marketing videos in a Semantic Web will have a better chance of reaching their target market. Videos can be more specific and specialized, making it easier to target potential customers. Have a listen to what Tim Berners-Lee had to say about the Semantic Web in 2008.
Is the Semantic Web Dead?
Back in 2001, Tim Berners-Lee published an article in Scientific American. This piece laid out the changes Berners-Lee and fellow researchers Ora Lassila and James Hendler saw coming to the web. Their talk of the Semantic Web heralded a time when intelligent “agents” would scour the internet and make connections on our behalf. Think of an advanced version of Siri communicating with a bunch of other Siris.
Eighteen years later, we’re still waiting for a Semantic Web. Why hasn’t it happened yet? This idea is reliant on a unified acceptance of new standards that would require all web content to be annotated with bits of XML. However, getting everyone to provide metadata for their content isn’t easy. Also, some people might be tempted to use the XML info in a misleading way to draw more clicks. Finally, in order for the metadata to be robust and reliable, users would all have to agree on a single representation for each important concept. In summary, it’s difficult to get everyone on the same page to move the idea of a Semantic Web forward.
Continued Web Evolution
Today we’re more likely to refer to machine learning and AI rather than the Semantic Web. Take for instance Google’s knowledge graph. It’s Google’s attempt to provide relevant, context-specific information regarding your search related to SEO. So even if the Semantic web never comes to fruition, we’re still benefitting from ideas proposed by the next generation of the world wide web.
This blog was originally published in 2011 and updated to include more recent information.