Web 2.0 and Semantic Web: Mars and Venus?

Summary:Kendall Clark from XML.com posted an interesting article called Web 2.

Kendall Clark from XML.com posted an interesting article called Web 2.0 Meet the Semantic Web. In it he talks about a new technology called SPARQL, which is an RDF query language and protocol. It's apparently an SQL for the Semantic Web. Kendall's post proposes that Web 2.0 be "wrapped, morphed, or bridged on to RDF", to use Shelley Power's words (kindly translating from SemWeb geek into 2.0 geek). Kendall wrote in summary:

"Well, Web 2.0 fans, builders, and advocates need more love from SW fans, builders, and advocates. These two worlds really belong together." 

I'm supportive of the notion to bring the Semantic Web folks and the Web 2.0 folks into the same orbit - anything that brings Tim Berners-Lee's Semantic Web vision for the WWW closer to the vision of Web 2.0 that I follow, is OK by me. But I feel I must point out the two worlds are not necessarily the same. I once crudely put it like this: Web 2.0 is 'The Web as Platform' and the Semantic Web is 'The Web of Meaning'. The platform could use more meaning, or it could continue to do just fine with the same 'good enough' approach that characterised the evolution of the Web in the 90's.

Morphing the two worlds has been tried before and wasn't overly successful. RSS 1.0 is basically an RDF version of RSS. It still has a lot of proponents, but its simpler cousin RSS 2.0 was always far more popular - and remains so to this day. Web 2.0 is all about keeping it simple - RSS, RESTful APIs, permalinks, etc.

So how would the complex (compared to RSS anyway), but powerful, RDF fit into the Web 2.0 ecosystem? Danny Ayers is a Semantic Web expert from way back and he seems to think the two worlds can work together:

"...this network wants to join together - the majority of local stimuli are pushing in that direction. There are many points of intersection, relatively few difficult barriers."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Danny's basically saying to take the organic approach and see how the Web evolves. I agree with that.

Finally, Dave Winer responded to Kendall's post with this:

"The Web is real. The Semantic Web is an idea and Web 2.0 is a marketing concept used by venture capitalists and conference promoters to try to call another bubble into existence.

The hype is treating "Web 2.0" as more and more real, and the hypesters are getting further and further out on a limb. "

Dave has a point. Web 2.0 is becoming very hyped and the Semantic Web has never got off the ground. But in both Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web, there are very real and viable technologies that are defining the next evolution of the Web. People are using the technologies, whatever you want to name the overall trend. 

For some reason I'm reminded of that old Palmolive advert, with Madge saying "You're soaking in it!" It doesn't matter too much what people think of the term 'Web 2.0', the fact of the matter is: we're living through the middle of it right now.

Topics: Enterprise 2.0

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