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"State of the Semantic Web" - personal opinions?

From: Danny Ayers <danny.ayers@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 26 Jun 2008 19:20:22 +0200
Message-ID: <1f2ed5cd0806261020u618ba1e2p49771ef7109449ce@mail.gmail.com>
To: "semantic-web@w3.org" <semantic-web@w3.org>
Cc: "Ivan Herman" <ivan@w3.org>, "Paul Miller" <Paul.Miller@talis.com>
In brief, some time soon I'm planning to do a moderately comprehensive,
fairly non-technical write-up on this topic (for Nodalities [1] - has quite
a large & varied readership, including Planet RDF :-)
I'd like to try to be as objective as possible (personal ideosyncracies
aside). But I'm really hesitant... I want to do the topic justice, but am
totally ignorant of a vast amount of what's been happening in the field of
late (and have a terrible memory!). So I would very much like to draw on
other people's knowledge and experience, different perspectives, even vague
intuitions on this. In short, he-elp!

Please reply on-list if it's ok for direct publication (include your
homepage URI if you want quoting), mail me personally if you have
off-the-record comments - if I use I won't mention source.

The inspiration - last month I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Ivan
Herman entitled "State of the Semantic Web" [2] (apologies Ivan, the most
recent version of your slides I could find online are last year's at [3],
but I think those carry the gist). Great material, but clearly he was there
primarily in his role as semweb lead at the W3C, though to his credit he
went far deeper than mere cheerleading.

(I too do semweb stuff as a profession, but I'm fortunate enough that the
company I work for encourages speculative exploration - if I asserted "the
semweb sucks!", it'd just lead to further discussion ;-)

Ok, so for this as-yet hypothetical write-up, I'd like to include a few
success stories, as well as an example or two of things that *haven't*

Now a few random areas I'd love to hear thoughts on - some of them involve
prognostication, but I'll interpolate backwards (!)...sorry, lots more
bullets than I initially intended - please just pick any that you feel
strongly about! -

* Obviously Semantic Web technologies potentially have a big role within the
corporate Intranet. How are things going there?
(Personally I'm not comfortable with distinctions between "Public Web" and
er, "HTTP on the LAN" or even "Our Lovely Inference Engine", but for present
purposes I'll keep my mouth shut :-)

* Money! What's the current status of funding for semweb research in
academia? Inside big corps? Gov. orgs? Funding from VCs etc?

* What's the range of application of RDF like nowadays? (Obscure examples
would be nice)

* What is the significance of recent interest in Semantic Technologies
(those without necessarily having any tie to the Web)?

* How far does RDF+SPARQL (+RDFS) get us? Where might OWL(2) take us? Is
there any conflict between these directions?

* How have the Linked Data initiatives changed perceptions in the use of

* How's the chicken? How's the egg?
(aside - we seem to have a decent supply of data now - but where are the
UIs/hooks into existing UIs/never-before-considered applications?)

* Has the role of the W3C changed in this context over the past few years?

* Can we still speak of "The Semantic Web Community" as a (reasonably)
unified whole? Should it be?

* Have the attitudes of the developer community at large changed much
towards the Semantic Web? (Did SWEO help?)

* How has/will blogging influenced the Semantic Web?

* Initially the Web 2.0 'movement' had little or nothing to do with the
Semantic Web (beyond the lower layers of the stack) - is there any evidence
of change there?

* Slightly tangential - where do you see social networking going?
(Possibilities off the top of my head - unification of services; general
loss of interest through another fad coming along; descent into the Web
- supplemental: assume the fad prognosis - what'll be next?

* Is there yet any compelling, user-friendly application that is solidly
based on the Semantic Web (and within that definition I'll include linked
data and suchlike broad Web connectivity)?
 - bonus: if I want to show Mom how cool the semweb is, without blinding her
with triples, where do I start?

* Of the old layer cake, we seem to approaching the point where some of the
upper layers don't seem far off being ready for prime time: Rules, Logic,
Proof. Too optimistic?

* Again with the cake: we know we need Trust - but whatever happened to
Signature, Encryption?

* Named graphs are the future?

* (Summary of the last few) - are we done with new specs yet?

* Any impact anticipated from HTML5?

* If there was (is?) a Web 2.0 cake, no doubt it would now include OpenID
and OAuth - how compatible are these/can these be with the semweb tech we
know & love?

* Not unrelated, there's a fair bit of similarity between OpenID Attribute
Exchange and RDF, as well as what appears to be a parallel stack to the
(Semantic) Web with XRDS/XRI/XDI etc. Is independent invention of this
nature a good thing or not?
(My mouth remains firmly shut :-)

* There's always been a Semantic Web roadmap - has its destination changed?

* What obstacles are there?

* Event/comm-related things - IM, XMPP, Twitter even - where's the semweb in
all that?

* Mobile Semantic Web - how're we doing?

* Ubiquitous Semantic Web - how're we doing?

* Jim Hendler's question: where are the agents?

* What are the best next actions to carry this Grand Project (tm) forward?

* Loose question - while it doesn't make much sense to say when the Web
was/is finished (2 hosts? 2 billion?), but barring disasters, on what kind
of timescale do you think we'll see a significant qualitative difference in
the Web at large due to Semantic Web technologies?

* Anyone noticed any serendipity recently?

* What questions did I miss? :-)


[1] http://blogs.talis.com/nodalities/
[2] http://www.semantic-conference.com/session/723/
[3] http://www.w3.org/2007/Talks/0223-Bangalore-IH/

Received on Thursday, 26 June 2008 17:21:06 UTC

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