Semantic Web: To be or not to be

Semantic Web: To be or not to be

Summary:'s Paul Festa writes about the heady discussions at the Semantic Technology Conference in San Francisco this week.

TOPICS: Browser
1's Paul Festa writes about the heady discussions at the Semantic Technology Conference in San Francisco this week. There's a healthy bit of skepticism and optimism for the Semantic Web, which W3C documents describe as "the idea of having data on the web defined and linked in a way that it can be used by machines not just for display purposes, but for automation, integration and reuse of data across various applications."

Peter O'Kelley, Burton Group analyst: "I'm not against any attempts to do more sophisticated knowledge management on the Web. But it's not entirely clear to me what problem these guys think they're solving. The simplicity and robustness of the Web we have today is one of the things that's made it so successful. The Semantic Web is not going to be as broadly applicable as the technologies we have today. With all due respect to Sir Tim [Berners-Lee], there's a lot of mileage left in the Web as we know it."

Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and Worldwide Web creator: "It's akin to the responses I got years ago bernerwhen I was trying to explain this Web thing to people, especially in industry. The idea of a universal information space with identifiers and one-way links was a paradigm shift. We didn't have the vocabulary then to describe the things we take for granted now with regards to the Web in general. So it is with the Semantic Web."

The Semantic Web is conceptually

Topic: Browser

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  • Semantic web - choose your vendors carefully

    I am all for the semantic web and the development of a layer of consciousness over it for full interoperability and new application mashups. I've heard of a number of publishers thinking about jumping on the semantic bandwagon right now, evaluating services like Calais ( and Zementa ( that are capable of providing enhanced sementic indexing and recommendation services. These are highly intelligent systems that could make up a powerful publishing toolkit...sounds great, but one has to ask - AT WHAT PRICE?

    Build-vs-buy decisions are common in our line of work. And with tools like Calais and Zementa now out in the marketplace with a powerful semantic toolkit, it is enough to make any publisher jump at the opportunity. But STOP - the devil is in the details - here's the fine print

    ZEMENTA Terms and conditions:
    - You understand that Zemanta ltd. can retain a copy of the submited content. Copy will not be retained only in the case when Zemanta Browser Extension submits the content of e-mail message from the mail composer view. Zemanta can without exception retain a copy of the metadata and content enhancements submitted by you or that generated by the Zemanta service. By submitting content to or generating metadata, content and content enhancements through the Zemanta service, you grant Zemanta ltd. a non-exclusive perpetual, sublicensable, royalty-free license to that metadata. From a privacy standpoint, Zemanta ltd. use of this metadata and content enhancements is governed by the terms of the Zemanta ltd. and Zemanta Privacy Statements.


    You understand that Thomson Reuters will retain a copy of the metadata submitted by you or that generated by the Calais service. By submitting or generating metadata through the Calais service, you grant Thomson Reuters a non-exclusive perpetual, sublicensable, royalty-free license to that metadata. From a privacy standpoint, Thomson Reuters' use of this metadata is governed by the terms of the Thomson Reuters and Calais Privacy Statements.


    For a traditional build-buy decision, the benefits are clear - you pay the vendor, the vendor provides a service, makes a profit and you still own your intellectual property. In the above terms, a publisher would theoretically use a semantic service to index their content, and then assign royalty free rights to your content over to the service provider????!!!

    What is very worrying for me is that many publishers are not completely understanding what the semantic web truly means once their content rights are signed away as in the above arrangements. Semantic web applications rely on good content to create their vocabularies and an "understanding of the world". the more reference points they have (more bases of content) the more accurate their contextual understanding becomes. Even if they do not retain a copy of your content, their engine would have learned a lot from your data. I've personally seen some prototype applications able to summarize articles fairly accurately. What does this mean when you grant these application providers royalty free content rights? Could they potentially reason against your content and provide answers without users having to visit your site/publication? Technologically, I've seen it work. What's stopping them from doing this?

    Well, with these clauses in place, apparently nothing.