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Semantic web - Trend or a future standard?

Cognifide (Social Media Portal) - 21 July 2008

Semantic web - Trend or a future standard?

Greg Wolejko frontend Web developer for software development consultancy Cognifide discusses what is the semantic Web (also referred to as Web 3.0) and explains how brands are getting involved

The semantic web (or Web 3.0 as it is also being called) is being hailed as the next big development of the internet – it almost certainly is the next big thing, and it’s here already.  The previous article, “Are we there yet? Why we need the semantic Web” focused on the meaning of the semantic web, the benefits of incorporating semantic data and the potential challenges that come with implementing it.

To recap, the semantic web allows better use of knowledge and helps us all deliver better websites that improve the customer experience, regardless of whether your customer is business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) or between consumers – peer-to-peer (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.Photograph of Grzegorz Wolejko, Frontend designer at Cognifide 

It does this by creating relationships between words, for example, "sky is blue", can be modeled as subject (sky), relation (has color) and attribute (blue).  In this way we can represent plain text data in a more semantic way and then represent relationships between data which creates a new level of information sharing, cross company knowledge bases and information partnerships.

Global brands such as IBM, Fujitsu and Boeing are already looking to introduce semantic data to their projects; but what about brands and marketers without the budget of Boeing or IBM – how can they benefit from the semantic web?

Although big players are developing the means (including developing tools) of using the semantic web, small businesses should jump on board as soon as possible. This is a fairly new technology and is therefore going to be met with certain levels of trepidation; however as with any new medium it’s primarily the early adopters that are able to set the standard and therefore best practice.  It is an obvious assumption that being associated with a new technology that has the potential to radically change the Internet (and how we use it) is a good thing and a fantastic way for small companies to promote themselves.

So, what are the aforementioned brands actually doing in the area of the semantic web?  How are they making it work for them?  

James L. Phillips, the director of mathematics and computing technology at Boeing describes Boeing’s involvement, “Boeing has a number of projects exploring semantics-based applications in various areas including information and application integration and interoperability, publish/subscribe, knowledge management and network centric operations.”

The vice president of Sun Microsystems, Lew Tucker says that “Resource Description Framework (RDF) provides Sun with the foundation for superior knowledge aggregation and application integration.”  RDF is a way of representing data that not only keeps information but also shows relationships between pieces of data. From a technical standpoint this is the essence of the semantic web.

If you think about the semantic web actually works, how relationships are stored and presented, all this is taken care of by a RDF.  For me as a technology developer, it’s exciting to see brands (both global and small) embracing the semantic web.  Brands such as Boeing, Sun Microsystems and IBM are looking to the semantic web to find a better way to manage their data, and finding it.  For marketers and advertisers, the semantic web offers an opportunity to create better relationships between existing content, and therefore encouraging deeper penetration of the brand and driving awareness.

So, can we currently see the semantic web in action?

The answer is yes. Semantic search engine Hakia ( has recently opened its Application Programming Interface (API) to the public, and it allows us to see how semantic search, a quite an interesting part of semantic web, works in the real world.

Hakia has the same look and feel of a ‘traditional’ search engine that we as users are familiar and comfortable with, but the difference is that it searches more meaningfully and allows you to input questions. Rather than ranking your results by popularity, it ranks them by quality, with Hakia explaining quality results as being threefold:

1. It comes from credible sources (verticals) recommended by librarians
2. It is the most recent information available
3. It is absolutely relevant to the query

Hakia looks for a meaning behind the data (this is the semantic part – how information relates to each other) and outputs a better quality of results chosen by relativity not by popularity.

A semantic search engine (and in principal, a semantic web) saves the end user both time and effort by giving them the most relevant information quickly.  This information is provided by the means of semantic representation of data allowing to find search results that are really relevant to the user’s query.

The semantic web is starting to rapidly gain popularity, and this is only going to grow exponentially as awareness and media pick-up increases.

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 article 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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