Semantic Web – The Fact Machine?
The Semantic Web is something technical, explained Tassilo Pellegrini, representing Semantic Web Company, in his opening keynote of the APA EBusiness Community Meeting on 27 August. That scared the audience quite a lot: another technology, new products, new marketing lingo, new sales bullshit to be learned and spread.
The discussion turned immediately to question the business case of semantic web application: What’s new, how does it support business and where do we make money? – A business case has always two sides, it’s not only about making money, but also about spending money. – Where do you actually spend money on the semantic web? And: What’s the business case for the Web itself – that’s still an unanswered question (and probably will not be answered anymore).
Semantic Web is a way to structure and label data. Standardized metadata make data more precise and therefore, that’s the assumption, more useful.
What’s the use of it? Targeted advertising is already here, extended product searches that combine many offers even from different sources (vancancies in a hotel combined with restaurants and entertainment facilities nearby) or more human language-style searches (translating free text entries with huge thesauri into structured data) and recommendation engines are the common applications.
Internal knowledge management is of course another nice application, The main objection from a sceptical audience is: “Our people don’t have time to create content AND publish it AND describe it with structured data.” – Using online media is a question of the way of working, not a matter of time; I’ve already said that a few times.
What scared me a little is the approach to data quality, reality and relevance: From 2007 to 2009 the semantic web grew from containing 2 billion “facts” to 10 billion “facts”. I can hardly imagine a way to create, check and approve 8 billion “facts” in two years. – More precision does not always mean more correctness; you can also describe something exactly, precisely – but still wrong. That’s the main challenge of the semantic web to me.