My second day at WWW2006 was as interesting as my first. The morning began with a plenary panel that included Nigel Shadbolt as the panel chair, Tim Berners-Lee, Richard Benjamins, Clare Hart, and Jim Hendler. The panel was entitled "The Next Wave of the Web" but it was really about the semantic web. You could debate whether that's the next wave or not.
Berners-Lee made the observation that RDF and OWL form a strong basis for building the semantic web, but that until SPARQL, the semantic web query language, is widespread, asking people to adopt the semantic Web is like asking people to use relational databases without SQL. Later in a panel I went to on mashups, Berners-Lee, from the audience, requested of Frank Mantek of Google, that Google support SPARQL queries on Google Data.
Hart has some very practical points and it was clear that she'd used semantic web technologies at real companies. She said that businesses have to figure out how to tap unstructured and structured information resources to build competitive advantage. It's still difficult to scope ontology projects and thus hard to determine ROI beforehand. Web 2.0 is leading people's expectations of what can be done.
Perhaps most telling is that almost everything that was said at the panel pointed the perfect future, which Rohit Khare calls the "software developers favorite tense."