The semantic Web is sometimes hailed as the future of information technology — an “Internet of things,” in which all devices big and small are constantly talking to us and to one another, enhancing our lives with a breathtaking stream of data. This future can seem incredibly distant. Researchers are working on a variety of exciting applications for this technology — such as smart power meters for electricity use, RFID-enabled soda fountains and augmented-reality enhanced car windshields. Very cool ideas — but not mainstream quite yet. Meanwhile, we hear the technologists crow about the wonders of the semantic Web and all we can think is, “OK, cool — so when do I get a pair of SmartPants?” (Note to self: Get my company to trademark the concept of “SmartPants.”)
But maybe that semantic world is closer than we think. In the lead story of today’s SmartBrief on Social Media, Richard MacManus explains that a critical component of the semantic Web — linked data — is making serious strides, as companies and governments move to get more data online.
What does this have to do with social media? As MacManus explains, “one of the reasons the Semantic Web hasn’t yet been widely adopted, at least commercially, is that it’s often difficult or time consuming to mark up data semantically.” I wonder if the social networks can solve the technical challenges of marking up this data, the same way it eased the cultural barriers that made us not want to share data in the first place.
While everyone is talking about the possibilities of mobile and location-aware social networks, I wonder if maybe those are just half-measures. Maybe the real potential of social media isn’t in what we say to our networks — but what our semantic networks could say about us. Privacy concerns aside (and yeah, I realize that’s a very big aside), that’s the kind of knowledge that could change the world.
Are you excited by the possibilities of the semantic Web? Think it’s all pie-in-the-sky? Interested, but not sure how it connects to social media? Let me know!
Image credit, photobank.kiev.ua, via Shutterstock