In your time on the Web, you might've heard this term: the semantic Web. What IS the semantic Web? Let's see what different voices on the Web have to say about this somewhat intimidating term:
- "The Semantic Web is a collection of facts, rather than pages. It is really for computers to search and find things and present them in a reasonable way." - source
- "On the semantic web - so the idea goes - search engines and applications will know what users are looking for, much in the same way humans understand one another based on context and other cues." - source
- "The semantic web is about putting data on the web." - Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web
- "In essence, the semantic web will result not just in even more information being made available on the web, but, more importantly, an increase in related information, with the average surfer having to make any changes to the way they use the web." - source
- "The Semantic Web is the extension of the World Wide Web that enables people to share content beyond the boundaries of applications and websites. It has been described in rather different ways: as a utopic vision, as a web of data, or merely as a natural paradigm shift in our daily use of the Web." - source
- "The Semantic Web is a web that is able to describe things in a way that computers can understand." - source
Clear as mud? Well, let's look at an example. Say you're looking for hotels in Seattle to stay at for a business trip. Instead of using your favorite search engine, you Twitter about what you want: easy freeway access, close to the waterfront, and preferably with modern design. Your Tweet is broadcast to all your followers, who re-tweet it to people they know who might have knowledge of such a hotel, plus, your tweet is forwarded to your other data streams: Facebook, Tumblr, and FriendFeed. At this point, you get a direct message from a travel agent who can book you the perfect Seattle hotel; once you book it, your online calendar is automatically updated with your travel plans, along with an automatic message to the people on your shared calendar list.
Now, since you've been using the Web to search for a particular kind of Seattle hotel, the next Web search you try - what to do in downtown Seattle - centers specifically around the hotel you've booked, targets restaurants on the waterfront, and gives you modern design points of interest to visit. You also see a few ads offering you serious savings the next time you book a trip to Seattle, which you save in your delicious bookmarks to use in the future (and share with others). Oh, and the next time you pop open your feed reader, you'll see a few new data feeds suggested, all of which center around Seattle, travel in the Pacific Northwest, and modern designers. As you settle into your hotel room and check for new movies on your favorite video site, you see "Sleepless in Seattle" at the top of the heap, with more recommendations from the Seattle film buffs group that has emerged on one of your iPhone Web apps.
Sound implausible? Maybe - except every single one of the examples I used here are actually being executed in real life, with bleeding edge semantic Web technology that while still in its VERY beginning stages, is starting to make a big difference in how we use the Web - and for the better. Keep watching About Web Search for more information on this real-time transformation of the World Wide Web, and how we get our information.