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Are we there yet? Why we need the semantic Web

Cognifide (Social Media Portal) - 28 April 2008

Are we there yet? Why we need the semantic Web

Greg Wolejko frontend Web developer for software development consultancy Cognifide discusses what is the semantic Web (also referred to as Web 3.0) and asks why brands should be interested?

Blogs, mashups, tag clouds and content sensitive ads (not to mention the rest) have ingratiated themselves into our day to day lives.  But, the dust has barely had time to settle before we hear talk about the next big step in web evolution; semantic web and web 3.0 - a new way of looking at data, a new way of representing data and the relationships between it.

So, what is semantic web? To answer that we need to take a short trip down memory lane and see how the internet has changed over the years. First we had what can be called web 1.0: emails, basic websites, “under construction” signs and newsgroups fit well into that category. This was a time where information was connected solely by hyperlinks, a time before Google time – as hard as that seems to be to recall. Photograph of Grzegorz Wolejko, Frontend designer at Cognifide

After that came web2.0, a set of solutions and technologies that connected people. Here blogs, social networks, RSS and tag clouds took over and video came into its own. Community sites and “beta” versions were in. On the ground of this, various ad networks emerged, Google Adsense being one of, if not the, biggest.  

Now, it’s time for us all (marketers, developers, brands et al) to become familiar with web 3.0 and what that means to each of our businesses, and as a collective.  Web3.0 connects knowledge. The semantic web is perhaps one of the most important aspects of 3.0 in that it is a means to represent both data and relationships between each information node. This allows better use of knowledge and helps us all deliver better websites that improve the customer experience, regardless of whether your customer is B2B, B2C or P2P. An important element of the semantic web is that it not only allows good content to be better presented to users on the site but also allows better reuse of data between sites and/or applications.

You may ask yourself whether a semantic web really will be the next big thing or whether it is in fact already here? The answer to that is simple: yes, it’s here. Tools for migrating data from their plain form to new, semantic form are already here. Big brands are working on solutions how to seamlessly produce semantic data. Adobe, IBM and HP put great interest in developing tools that help us make a transition into a semantic web; tools that are already here and being used right now. Boeing, Fujitsu and Nokia are examples of brands that are searching for a ways to use those tools in their internal projects.

But why should we care? Why is that big news? How can we benefit from all this? The semantic web is literately a whole new channel for generating business. It opens up new possibilities for marketers to deliver their products and sell their services. Web 3.0 is all about reusing data, which in turn creates a new level of information sharing, cross company knowledge bases and information partnerships. All this is possible now.

But with this new medium comes what one may conceive as a problem: there is no branding or advertising as we know it. In web 3.0 we deal with knowledge not with products. The data and the relationships it maintains can not be branded in an obvious way. Knowledge itself can not be riddled with ads as this would distort information. It is a new challenge; how to bring corporate identity to a semantic web?

Marketers taking their business to web 3.0 will have to face those challenges. The most important one is how to actually generate business out of knowledge sharing?  The semantic web is a means of indirect business opportunity. One can make a business out of the product of knowledge sharing, out of getting new leads as content presented in this way brings new visitors. But to do so will require developing new solutions for semantic marketing.

We need solutions for successful distribution of information. Taking search engine optimisation (SEO) to the next level will produce semantic web optimisation (SWO) - a way to widely promote content through as many networks as possible. This will fall right into place with creating new networks, sub-networks of existing ones, or just by adding promoted content to existing knowledge bases.

Is this a possibility for semantic branding? While distributing data, wrapping it with information on the supplier of this premium content? This will also require powerful means to promote valuable information, to pitch ones semantic data over someone else's.

Web 3.0 is the next big thing and it is happening right now. It is a logical next step in web evolution and all the big players are already on board and starting to realise the potential benefits. A (another) new and evolving market is developing in front of us, one where we will see great things beginning to take shape in the near future.

The in the next article Greg will illustrate and present  technologies that are used in creation of semantic web and in obtaining semantic data and how this may be used by brands.

Greg Wolejko is a frontend Web developer at Cognifide a software development consultancy. Greg’s develops user interfaces and creating usable and accessible websites.

See the articles in the series:

1. Are we there yet? Why we need the semantic Web
2. Semantic web - Trend or a future standard?
3. Semantic branding - Creating a brand with the semantic web

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