Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Semantic Solution - A Browser?

In a recent discussion with colleagues about Web 2.0, we ran into the conundrum of what lies beyond Web 2.0 that would solve some of the limitations that it has. I offered the idea of an automated Web browser - a portal - one that would not be unlike an Internet Explorer browser with which a user could just sign in, and enter his or her password, and then freely surf the the Semantic Web (or whatever parts of it exist). It would be an exciting journey. Dennis Quan and David Karger's How to Make a Semantic Web Browser proposes the following:

Semantic Web browser—an end user application that automatically locates metadata and assembles point-and-click interfaces from a combination of relevant information, ontological specifications, and presentation knowledge, all described in RDF and retrieved dynamically from the Semantic Web. With such a tool, na├»ve users can begin to discover, explore, and utilize Semantic Web data and services. Because data and services are accessed directly through a standalone client and not through a central point of access . . . . new content and services can be consumed as soon as they become available. In this way we take advantage of an important sociological force that encourages the production of new Semantic Web content by remaining faithful to the decentralized nature of the Web

I like this idea of a portal. To have everyone agree about how to implement W3C standards - RDF, SPARQL, OWL - is unrealistic. Not everyone will accept the extra work for no real sustainable incentive. That is perhaps why there is no current real invested interest by companies and private investors to channel funding to Semantic Web research. However, the Semantic Web portal is one method to combat the malaise. In many ways, it resembles the birth of Web 1.0, before Yahoo!'s remarkable directory and search engines. All we need is one Jim Clark and one Marc Andreeson, I guess.

(Maybe a librarian and an information scientist, or two?)

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