Chapter 10. The Semantic Web: A Cocktail Discussion

While the previous chapters attempted to provide an overview of the social web and motivate you to get busy hacking on data, it seems appropriate to wrap up with a brief postscript on the semantic web. This short discussion makes no attempt to regurgitate the reams of interesting mailing list discussions, blog posts, and other sources of information that document the origin of the Web, how it has revolutionized just about everything in our lives in under two decades, and how the semantic web has always been a part of that vision. It does, however, aim to engage you in something akin to a cocktail discussion that, while glossing over a lot of the breadth and depth of these issues, hopefully excites you about the possibilities that lie ahead.

An Evolutionary Revolution?

Let’s start out by dissecting the term “semantic web.” Given that the Web is all about sharing information and that a working definition of semantics is “enough meaning to result in an action,”[62] it’s not a very big leap to deduce that the semantic web is mostly about representing knowledge in a very meaningful way. But let’s take that one step further and not assume that it’s a human who is consuming the information that’s represented. Let’s consider the possibilities that could be realized if information were shared in a fully machine-understandable way—a way that is unambiguous enough that a reasonably sophisticated user agent like a web robot could extract, interpret, ...

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