There has been an ongoing chorus (has it ever stopped) about Semantic Web blah this, and Semantic Web blah that, dry as toast… it ain’t sexy, fundamentally flawed… Mix and repeat.
Well, when was the last time anyone stayed up late in the night reading the RFC 2616 – HTTP 1.1 spec, or XHTML 1.1 Rec or dug into all the intricacies of the many flavours of RSS (0.9, 0.91, 0.91-userland, 1.0, 0.92, 2.0)??? I would guess not many of you have raised your hands. Or maybe you are too embarrassed, that’s okay — if you have let me know, I would love to have a chat :)
The Semantic Web is, get this, infrastructure! Wow, it isn’t a product, it will most likely never be shrink wrapped and put on the shelf next to Bratz dolls (thank God). Just like HTTP, RSS, POP, IMAP and countless other protocols and languages are not on the shelf. The COOL things, the things that are sexy, are built on top of this infrastructure. The Web tools and sites and systems we have grown to love all live and breathe this basic infrastructure — and we don’t care! We love that quick tagging and comments on flickr, we love all the Google apps that just work and work fast. But do I really care what they are built on? Well, as a tech head I do, but that will not sell systems or hearts and minds.
This is exactly what Web 3.0/Semantic Web is all about. Killer new tools that give the tech heads new toys to play with. It is the difference between Web 2.0 style mashups and Web 3.0 style meshups. We can stop wasting our time cramming things together, forcing square pegs into round holes. Instead we can leverage more intelligent data to carry more of the burden and free us developers to dream of the next flickr. But this time better with more jammed packed Web magic and new connections and more links! Gotta have more links.
And even if you never use Semantic Web tools why waste your time saying how they will never work? I don’t use Ruby or Python or PHP. I wish I did, I am learning a bit of Python and a bit of PHP as they are great tools. Do I personally use them for mission critical things? No. Would I? No because I have invested my time in other technologies. But I think they are wonderful and I wish there was more time in the day so I could learn them, heck, I would learn everything if the day was longer.
Pretty much any tech has some place and some usefulness, well hold on… what was that robot thing for the original Nintendo (way way back) anyway??? R.O.B. and spinning and flashing and huh? I never had one so maybe I was (and still am) jealous of the kids that did.
Don’t get me wrong, this stuff is hard and it takes grim determination (this is being worked on). But it is early days, kind of like it was back in 1993. How many of you code weavers were creating Google Maps in 1995 or pushing out RSS feeds to your adoring fans in 1998 or podcasting your crappy music in 2001? Probably not many. I wasn’t, I can’t even play music let alone crappy music.
When RSS really caught on and Google Map was reverse engineered, that was the beginning of where we are now — the birth of the API and the mashable Web. There will be a similar effect when semantic technologies get easier to use and people start “view sourcing” and reverse engineer a cool web tool… I can’t wait.
image copyright wikipedia