The ‘Practical’ Semantic Web

September 23, 2011


While Tim Berners-Lee may have described the semantic web to be drawn from artificial intelligence it’s nonetheless impressive that Facebook, the four year old social network, has put many of the pieces in place to make it a practical reality…using, not machines, but People.

As my colleague and friend Noah Horton points out in his blog post 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. And he’s right. The practical application of the Semantic Web hasn’t been here, until now.

At Facebook’s annual developer conference, f8, they introduced a slew of new features that not only demonstrate that as a company they are fierce competitors but that they believe the world is ready for the Semantic Web. Nearly 18 months ago introduced the Like button. When you, or I, press it on an article, a place, a band, a song, etc. and an explicit endorsement takes place.

you Like CNN

But that explicit endorsement had become a constraint. Most of us don’t just Like we Watch, or Read, or Eat, or ____ (No MySpace pun intended). Facebook recognized this and developed a way to “express lightweight activity” and they introduced it to the world today. By enabling developers to create additional Verbs (other than Like) Facebook has just extended their open graph to better capture all of the potential serendipitous connections we might be able to make. This addition of new verbs allows Facebook’s open graph to push out into the promise of the Semantic Web.

“Today we’re making it possible to create a whole new class of apps and change industries at the same time,” Zuckerberg stated. It’s unchartered territory, technically exciting, and practically amazing.


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