The Semantic Social Web

22 Sep

Today Facebook provided something technologists have been waiting for, for over 10 years: a reason to move to the Semantic Web. Facebook’s announcement of typed Open Graph objects and Custom Verbs is going to be a big deal for the entire Internet, but not for the reason you may think.

A more social web

Why Say It In Computer?

Tim Berners-Lee, who invented most of the technologies we call the Web, used the term “Semantic Web” for the concept of annotating web pages with data meaningful to computers, rather than content for humans. He envisioned what sci-fi authors have written about for years: artificial intelligence agents that could help humans with more complex tasks than simple web searches.

Since Berners-Lee posed the Semantic Web, dozens of technologies have proposed how to solve the problem, but none succeeded. Why? No one could think of a use that would drive enough value to put in the cost and effort.

The Value Is Social, Not Mechanical

Today, the world has a need for the Semantic Web, and it turns out it’s people, after all.

What Facebook gave us today is a new way to provide updates to our friends and create running, sentimental records of how we’ve moved and been moved by the world around us. For example:

  • I can update my status to “Noah Horton watched ‘The Dark Knight.’”

That declaration is simple, and without a Semantic Web, it sort of sits there, as is.

Social Is a Chain Reaction

With the Semantic Web, my update does much more. It becomes a catalyst for reactions, and through those reactions, Warner Brothers gets more value from my relationship.Social is a Chain Reaction

With the opt-in right to contact me and everyone else who watched “The Dark Knight,” Warner Brothers might can alert me to new releases of the movie, or even other movies they think I might like.  They might then add more information to the Open Graph node, like the Director of the movie or who wrote the score.  They will do this because other services will consume this information to help me and other consumers make decisions that will ultimately make Warner Brothers money.

It might happen like this:

  • Warner Brothers adds the metadata that  “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” were both directed by Christopher Nolan.
  • Fandango uses my update about “The Dark Knight” to infer I might like other Christopher Nolan movies and suggests I buy tickets to “Inception.”
  • LinkedIn sees my RSVP for this event and suggests I invite a coworker who also likes Christopher Nolan movies. (Don Beck, wanna catch the matinee?)

This chain continues, with my interactions feeding more and more information into the Semantic Web, helping all of the businesses I share information with help me live life better.

Because Life Is More Than Semantics

It has taken 10 years to see the Semantic Web really begin to work, and this is a pivotal point. What we see today is not the Semantic Web, envisioned by Tim Berners-Lee. It is something better: the Semantic Social Web.  And with it, the emerging circuitry tracing all the social chain reactions we share with one another every day.

But I have questions:

  • How comfortable will people be with all of these services using this information to help make suggestions?  Will people embrace the advantages, or fear the implications?
  • Will brands embrace the “Rising tide raises all ships” philosophy and embrace these technologies knowing it will help both them and their competitors, or will brands resist?  If brands resist, can service providers like Fandango and IMDB drive the vision forward?

What do you think?

 Coment:

Drew Scalia · Co-Owner at Hatteras Island Boardsports

While I don’t disagree with your sentiment it reminds me of conversations I had with my mom years ago. Mom was resistant to several technological changes for example (and most relevant to this conversation): she didn’t want to learn to use a computer because it was “complicated and impersonal”. “A handwritten letter received in the mail is much nicer” is what she said to me and of course my reply to her was that I didn’t disagree with her but that if she didn’t learn email and start to use it that she was going to get left behind. Fortunately for her she understood that and made the effort to keep up. We all managed relationships before Facebook – very true. We also all managed relationships before email, before mobile phones, before landline phones, before pony express, etc. It’s simply social evolution following the lines of technological evolution and those who choose not to keep up will find themselves falling behind. Remember when you were a kid and you rolled your eyes at your parents because they “didn’t get it”? Marketing has and always will evolve with social channels as well: outdoor signs, snail mail & newspaper ads, radio ads, television ads, website banners, etc. You can resist change but you can’t stop evolution!

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One Response to “The Semantic Social Web”

  1. Digital Blogger 23/09/2011 at 7:11 #

    true & a meaningful first step towards semantic web. Now what will Google do to such a move…

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