On Linkedin Answers,
Krzysztof Pająk asks the question “Why the Semantic Web will Fail?”
Update: the person at LinkedIn apparently ripped his question literally off a blog post by Stephen Downes: Why the Semantic Web Will Fail- which I just found out about.
I posted the following clarification to LinkedIn answers:
I hereby leave my answer as general insight for this thread, but I have no respect for the way you’re apparently doing business. This smells a lot like plagiarism.
The original blog post is much more about trust and control, while the Linkedin thread seems to focus more about business models and cost. Just be sure to read Spehens blog.
Quoted, from Stephen Downes:
I was thinking about the edgy things of Web 2.0, and where they’re working, and more importantly, where they’re beginning to show some cracks.
A few of key things today:
- Yahoo is forcing people to give up their Flickr identities and to join the mother ship, and
- MySpace is blocking all the widgets that aren’t supported by some sort of business deal with MySpace
- the rumour that Google is turning off the search API
And that’s when I realized:
The Semantic Web will never work because it depends on businesses working together, on them cooperating.
We are talking about the most conservative bunch of people in the world, people who believe in greed and cut-throat business ethics. People who would steal one another’s property if it weren’t nailed down. People like, well, Conrad Black and Rupert Murdoch.
And they’re all going to play nice and create one seamless Semantic Web that will work between companies – competing entities choreographing their responses so they can work together to grant you a seamless experience?
Then, Dennis Furr answered:
Another way to look at this is from the perspective of the SME. Let the big players cause restrictions and limit services and their clients will abandon them. This will create new opportunities for new and existing SMEs to demonstrate their worth.
-Yahoo doesn’t force anyone to do anything. We make choices.
-If MySpace doesn’t provide the correct tools to satisfy their customers than the customers will vote with their feet.
-If Google (foolishly) turned off the search API then someone else would provide a replacement service.
Consumers aren’t loyal to brands, they are loyal to what these brands deliver. Look at the US automobile industry in the 1970’s. US auto manufacturers were building large cars that didn’t get very good fuel economy. Japanese car sales flourished. After much pain and agony US auto manufacturers developed relationships with their Japanese competitors and started manufacturing cars that were more attactive in terms of fuel economy. They even built cars with engines manufactured in Japan that were also used in Japanese cars.
My point is that if large players in an industry choose not to “play nice“ then this will likely create a place in the market for the SME. By developing seamless working relationships, collectively, the SME may develop enough momentum to displace larger traditional providers.
But there’s more.
Why the Semantic Web will NOT fail
First, Dennis gives a most execellent answer to the question about greed and conservatism.
Then, about the technology, things may evolve slghtly different than foreseen back in 2000 when the term “the semantic web“ emerged.
Back then, the perspective came mostly from the AI folks and Librarians, where the interpretation and categorization of data was thought of in a very top-down way. Basically, we needed massive centralized ontologies, which cost tons of money to define and maintain.
The cost of such a system could easily be prohibitive according to the scenario of
Kryzsztof Pająk Stephen Downes.
But then came round the developments which were tagged “web 2.0“. The key factor in my opinion, is the third point of Tim O’Reilly’s What is Web 2.0 article: data is the next “Intel Inside”. In my words, this means that users have to gain by sharing their data (the sum adds more value to the individual items) and smart companies can benefit from exploiting this data in a sensible/smart way.
We have seen this in the form of tagging on sites as Flickr and del.icio.us. Individual users get the benefit of putting their data in context of the rest, the service gets the benefits of being able to do all kinds of data mining and exploitation (e.g. advertising). The key point here is: users add their own meta data, for their own benefit.
Right now these so called folksonomies are becoming more and more mainstream. The center of this bottom up movement is the microformats initiative.
This doesn’t go unnoticed by the Semantic Web people and the first initiative to build the bridge between folksonomies, like microformats, and proper semantic web technolgy (rdf and ontologies) is being finalized right now: the W3C GRDDL recommendation. So we could finally get the benefits of both massive amounts of metadata, all entered by normal users, and carefully mapped ontologies, created by professionals for some specific benefit.
I would not be surprised if 2007 will be the year of the first successful, mainstream semantic web initiatives. Interesting fact: the new Video on demand service Joost.com is heavily supported by semweb technology at the back end.
Here is the linkedin thread in case you’re interested…