The phone rings. It’s your mother: “It’s that time of the year dear, can you help me organize this year’s family reunion? I’ll have my semantic web agent send you the details and I’ll check back with you in half an hour. Take care”
That would definitely be labeled as a “nightmare call”, but thankfully mom loves socializing with family members so her agent is connected to their agents… making your life a lot easier. This enables to you check the data that your mom’s semantic web agent has sent over. Other than access to the agent’s contact list of agents, the only other detail that your mother added was “ I want a warm weekend sometime in the next 2 months. ”
So your trusty little agent goes to work and finds appropriate dates based on information from the other agents. He then checks online for hotel bookings in California and Florida – since you have it on your wish list for this year, he puts those results first – and then comes up with 3 package options for each place that would be within budget for you and your family. Then he sends a confirmation email to you and your mom. The phone rings again “Oh hello dear, I just got your email. I like the idea of going to the Keys but I rather pick a different hotel than the ones listed, I heard good things about the Eden hotel from Aunt Jill, Can you check that out please ?”. A couple more clicks, and the trip is planned, hassle-free.
It Could Happen One Day…
That’s one of the scenarios that the next generation of web, Web 3.0, promises us. The ability to allow our computers to not just access, share and preview information but to understand the meaning of information contained in documents and relate it to you, the user.
The Internet, since its inception, facilitated sharing and accessing information but the information on the web was not interconnected. What the semantic web attempts to do is allow computers to socializes with each other and share and understand the information of interest to them or their users, in addition to pulling other relevant information from the web revolutionizing the way we view and process data.
So How Would The Semantic Web Do It?
“The Semantic Web is not a separate Web but an extension of the current one, in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation. ” ~ Tim Berners-Lee
The way we will be able to give meaning to our documents is through the open standard of Resource Description Framework (RDF). RDF is to the semantic web what HTML is to the document web, it allows you to define what the document is talking about. So RDF would contain information about the author, the date it was created and what topics it tackles. What makes RDF interesting is that it also contains information on how this documents relates to other documents, concepts, people, places, etc in the real world. So in the same notion that a cascading sheet (CSS) tells a computer how to display a document on the internet, an RDF will tell it what it means and how it’s related to other pieces of information.
Based on that notion, one of the biggest challenges of the Semantic Web is translating the massive amount of information currently available on the Internet into the language that computers understand, along with creating new information that already has that information in it. A lot of work is being done by search engines and companies to create intelligent tools and natural language processing software that will automate a lot of the process.
So Where Can I experience the Semantic Web ?
Although we are still in the early years of the Internet’s third decade, we are already seeing a lot of promising progress in making the semantic web a reality. Last week Oracle, a leader in enterprise level database management systems, announced that its database users will have native access to Thomas Reuters OpenCalias meta generation service providing its users with Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities and allowing the corporate world to benefit from semantic technologies. Moves like that have allowed the semantic web to shift from the labs into the business work flow and integrating the semantic web into people’s everyday life. That will allow more meaningful content to be produced and will definitely be a spark for innovation. The fact that semantic solutions are already making their way into the enterprise market is a testament to the level of robustness and scalability it has achieved and its a reassurance that it will deliver on its promise.
So Is There Anything That Would Help Me With That Family Reunion ?
While you might not be able to get your semantic agent to organize your family reunion anytime soon, you will definitely start experiencing the benefits of the semantic web, whether it’s through social networks, search engines, or new creative services that are popping on the web everyday. So to help you get that family reunion organized just head over to TripIt, and it will definitely be a great assistant.
So, what do you think ? Will the Semantic Web deliver on its promises or will it be another fantasy that doesn’t materialize ?