Semantic Web – Do We Really Need a Killer App?

Alex Iskod has an insightful blog post on Semantic Web: What is the Killer App that starts off a great conversation.

Before we talk about the Killer App for the Semantic Web, let us first look at some killer apps for the current Web. What do you think it is?

  • Search?
  • Open Information repositories like Wikipedia?
  • e-Commerce?
  • Social Networks?
  • Hosted Applications?
  • Social Resources (bookmarks, pictures, videos)?
  • Blogs?
  • <add your favorite app here>

Depending on where you are coming from, it could be any of these or a combination. The killer app varies with time and evolution of the web. But when the web started, what got people excited was the easy accessibility of information. Even the static web served useful purpose before the dynamic web and web applications showed up.

I think the same thing is going to be true of The Semantic Web. I look at the Semantic Web as a set of incremental improvements over the current web.

Here is a rather simplistic view of the Semantic Web:

  1. More accessible data (some of it encoded with Microformats or RDFa or some yet to be invented markup format)
  2. Better associations (type) between items of information (Linked Data?)

Most of the data on the web comes from either documents or databases. Database data already has a lot of semantics associated with it (in the form of meta data) and links (in the form of foreign key relationships or symbolic keys). Somewhere along the journey from this more structured form to the display format (html), some of the valuable information is lost. How difficult is it to add this information back (in the form of semantic markup) to the display data?

Documents will evolve to have more structure too. With ODF, OOXML and other similar formats, you are more likely to see better structured documents. As web pages are widgetized, you will see richer types of data on the web pages.

Structured data and richer data and more accessible data will take us several steps forward. Once we have data that makes more sense to people and programs, we will start noticing several useful applications.