Thursday, February 7, 2008

Where has the Sematic web failed us?

News about the Semantic Web has being the "next big thing" has been hitting web application developers over the head for years, like it was news about the iPhone. But where are the products? Who uses it? Expect for academic papers, a standards process that nobody pays attention to, and ontology narcissists, nobody uses RDF or OWL or any of those supposedly "next generation" tool sets and languages. OK, maybe Powerset will, but I'll believe that when I see it.

Certainly the swoogle is no google, although it is starting to address what I see is the most overlooked part of the semantic web, usability. It seems that developers and proponents of Web 3.0 thinmk regular users of the web are a lot smarter than they are. Swoogle does actually show a pretty nicely formatted report on the metadata it has for a result, if you know what you are looking at that is. Yet the main result link leads to the originating ontology, which is and RDF xml file. Yeah, that's helpful. Even if Joe Public is aware enough to click on the metadata link, instead of the big red button that is the main link, I can't ever image him making heads or tails of the report, or for that matter caring.

Why is that? Why is usability not even a concern for majority of ontology & semantic web developers? What makes this situation even more of a disaster is that tagging (and tag clouds) are so wide spread and ridiculously easy to understand. How is tagging any different than RDF annotations? A little more text, that's what. Oh and querying RDF is a bitch, so developers are also affected by the situation, making adoption of this "standard" that much more unlikely.

PS: I am not part of, or hold any affiliation to, NG&E, but "the 85%" is one of those stereotypes that ring true to me