The Semantic Web
This week in our module we were introduced to the idea of the Semantic Web, often referred to as Web 3.0. The concept was conceived by Tim Berners-Lee, who imagined the power of the Web when the wealth of data and information on the Web – not just whole documents and webpages – could be automatically aggregated, connected and ‘understood’ by machines. This would enable users to discover, link, search and retrieve information on the Web much more efficiently.
The Semantic Web does not currently exist, although there are some companies and websites – for example the BBC – who have used Semantic Web technologies to create links between their content and make their content more accessible, retrievable and usable. A wholly Semantic Web would only exist when information online is annotated and structured in a highly standardised way to enable more efficient information discovery, linking, searching and retrieval. The technologies involved in creating a Semantic Web include Resource Description Framework (RDF), Resource Description Framework Schema (RDFS), and Web Ontology Language (OWL).
This short documentary on the Semantic Web provides an overview of what the Semantic Web is, and some of the issues in moving towards a Semantic Web.
The Semantic Web promises a better way to link data and information and to gain meaning from the wealth of information online, but in my opinion a wholly Semantic Web is unlikely to emerge anytime soon. The magnitude of effort required to annotate and structure the vast amount of information that already exists on the Web in such a highly standardised format would be huge. Other issues such as developing standard taxonomies and ontologies, allowing taxonomies and ontologies to develop and changes with language and linking information across multiple languages would also make a wholly Semantic Web difficult to achieve.
Although a wholly Semantic Web would not be easily achievable, using non-standardised mark-up languages, such as XML to annotate text does move towards providing some of the functionality of a Semantic Web.