The semantic web is usually related to the web 3.0, and it is a mixture of linked information so it can be easily processed by machines to deliver better results to users. It’s main idea is to add semantic metadata to every piece of information. These additional pieces of data not only describe content itself, but they also provide a meaning to it and create a relationship between diverse pieces of information, with the purpose of improving the quality of Internet.
This may be the evolution of the web, and thus delivering more filtered results automatically. HTML, for instance, is able to give order to information and show it, but does not add meaning to whatever’s been shown, and this lack of meaning currently delivers irrelevant results. Ultimately, the universal purpose of the semantic web is that machines understand what users’ are asking for in a similar (yet more advanced) way than Siri or Google Now do, and although the technology that the semantic web requires have existed for years, there’s a missing technological methodology that would allow the automatic addition of semantic metadata since doing it one by one is basically impossible due to the large amount of information available.
But is there anything wrong with the semantic web? And, on the other hand, what are the good things involving this step in internet evolution? That’s what we’ll analyse in this article.
The basis of semantic web
With the semantic web, the machine doesn’t know or “understand” what the tags or markups – used to give the information a meaning – actually mean, but it can deal with the information in a way it seems it does. For this, all the information that would be used to identify the content, information that requires a great amount of processing will need to be stored in databases around the world. When information is stored this way, it gets very easy to get a complete and accurate response, whatever the question is.
This document is a very useful guide that will help you understand the technicalities of the semantic web.
It will also be important for the machine to have some sort of logical procedures that makes it “think” using the semantic web’s principles. The next step (when the logical part is already done) is to give the machines the ability to prove that the information is accurate before returning an answer to a user. It can work not only to disregard useless information, but for merging results to provide a more constructed answer, for instance, if a user asks “when did the second world war start” the machine will search different sites in order to get the date and analyse whether to merge, disregard or add information to the final result.
At first sight, there seems to be a division between those who perceive the semantic web as a good thing and the ones who consider such development might be problematic, and is not up to us to decide which side is right or wrong, but to know what are the good things and bad things that make part of this, so this section is for that precisely.
Still, there’s a large amount of website owners who are unaware of the semantic web’s importance, and, since it requires for them to add the metadata manually into OWL (Ontology Web Language) semantic markups, they will feel unmotivated to do it.
There’s also another heavy reason content creators are concerned about regarding the semantic web, especially the owners of those websites which depend on advertising since the user will just search anything on the browser and the results, like important dates, regular statistical information, or factual data may appear right away, making regular link-like search results outdated, removing the need to opening websites at all. That way, it is very unlikely that website owners support this.
The use and management of personal data could become a problem because it will be more important than ever to establish solid privacy policies. Basically, everything you post online could be exposed because the capability of content generators (or basically everyone) will be reduced since it would be the website where they post the content which is going to decide whether to share indiscriminately the information or not.
It will become easier for companies and advertisers to identify interests and preferences of ranges of users, taking into account the previous point, which they will be using to sell or promote any kind of products.
The technology exists, but we’ll see sometime pass until it takes off, not because of technical issues, but for the amount of resources it needs to be put on, the topic of this Quora question on what is required for “semantic web” to take off?
The end users will be the ones benefiting the most from this since they will see an improvement in the way they interact with machines, search for information and navigate the Internet.
People will be able to talk to the machine the same way one does with a person. We won’t need to learn different expressions or to say unconnected words in order for a device to perform and action, but instead we’ll use those expressions we use regularly.
It will answer you in a way that seems the machine is chatting with you. If you ask for something, it will not return a list of results, but instead, it will answer you in common expressions (the way a human could do) providing information taken from many sites. This is now common in systems like Siri or Google Now, but it hasn’t been fully integrated to the web. In this type of systems, if you ask them “how do I make an apple pie” the most common answer might be “this is what I found on ‘how do I make an apple pie’ on Internet”, providing a list of links to different websites instead of giving you the actual apple pie recipe. This is the key of the semantic web: if you ask for something, a list of links won’t work because you didn’t need links, you needed to get a simple answer.
This video shows how Google Voice Search (the predecessor of Google Now) is much better in answering factual questions like dates, birthdays or sizes than Siri while the last one is better at managing personal requests, like updating your calendar, notes, opening apps and it is also more conversational, but of course, these systems evolve day by day, so whatever one of them can’t do, it’s pretty sure it might be able to catch up sometime. The reason for this example is that these two systems, especially Google Now, are the predecessors of the semantic web since it uses the information on the internet.
There’s no doubt that the near future will see the rise of technologies able to respond to humans’ questions in an accurate and organic way, even though nowadays we think we can actually obtain organic responses. Machines are going to be able to engage in a natural communication mechanism with humans like never before. This might help making computers more adapted to human needs, and maybe, this extended use of semantic web may generate a new revolution in the way we communicate.