Chapter 2. The Semantic Web, RDF, and Linked Data (and SPARQL)

The SPARQL query language is for data that follows a particular model, but the semantic web isn’t about the query language or about the model—it’s about the data. The booming amount of data becoming available on the semantic web is making great new kinds of applications possible, and as a well-implemented, mature standard designed with the semantic web in mind, SPARQL is the best way to get that data and put it to work in your applications.


The flexibility of the RDF data model means that it’s being used more and more with projects that have nothing to do with the “semantic web” other than their use of technology that uses these standards—that’s why you’ll often see references to “semantic web technology.”

What Exactly Is the “Semantic Web”?

As excitement over the semantic web grows, some vendors use the phrase to sell products with strong connections to the ideas behind the semantic web, and others use it to sell products with weaker connections. This can be confusing for people trying to understand the semantic web landscape.

I like to define the semantic web as a set of standards and best practices for sharing data and the semantics of that data over the Web for use by applications. Let’s look at this definition one or two phrases at a time, and then we’ll look at these issues in more detail.

A set of standards

Before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, more powerful hypertext systems were available, but he ...

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