Friday, December 14, 2007

"Web 3.0" AND OR the "Semantic Web"

Although I have worked in health research centres and medical libraries, I have never worked professionally as a librarian in a health setting. That is why I have great admiration for health librarians such as The Google Scholar, who can multitask, working as a top-notch librarian while at the same time keeping up with cutting edge technology. The Google Scholar recently made a wonderful entry about Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web:

In medicine, there is virtually no discussion about web 3.0 (see this PubMed search for web 3.0 (zero results) and most of the discussion on the semantic web (see this PubMed search - ~100 results) is from the perspective of biology/ bioinformatics.

The dichotomy in the literature is both perplexing and unsurprising. On the one hand, semanticists are looking at a new intelligent web has 'added meaning' to documents, and machine interoperability. On the other, web 3.0 advocates use '3.0' to be trendy, hip or to market themselves or their websites. That said, I prefer the web 3.0 label to the semantic web because it follows web 2.0 and suggests continuity.

I find it perplexing, too, that academics tend to subscribe to the term "Semantic Web" whereas practitioners and technology experts tend to refer to "Web 3.0." For example, the Journal of Cataloging and Classification recently had an entire issue devoted to the Semantic Web - without one mention of the term "Web 3.0."

Although the dichotomy in the literature is apparent, it's interesting that for most of us, we associate Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web together. It's not unlike a decade ago when we used the terms "Internet" and "Web" interchangeably -- even though they are not.

Tim Berners-Lee and the W3C envisioned for the Web to eventually progress to becoming the Semantic Web. Standards such as RDF and DAML+OIL emerged as early as 1998, long before Web 2.0. Web 2.0 is not even mentioned in the W3C because it has no standards. In my opinion, Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web are separate entities. Web 3.0 goes one step further in that it will extend beyond the web browser and will not be limited to just the personal computer.

It is important that medical librarians -- all librarians for that matter -- join in (and even lead) the discourse, particularly since the Semantic Web & Web 3.0 will be based heavily on the principles of knowledge and information organization. Whereas Web 1.0 and 2.0 could not distinguish among Acetaminophen, Paracetamol, and Tylenol -- Web 3.0 will.

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