Similarly, there's a good chance of a few killer apps coming along - Semantic Web tech does open a few interesting doors. But I think it may be slightly misleading to talk of complete integration of current content and applications.
I'm pretty sure it wasn't Nova's intention, but that paragraph does give the impression that the difference between the current Web and the Semantic Web can be viewed in black and white. I think it's far more like a continuum (a point I was trying to make in The Shortest Path).
That's a useful clarification and I would have to agree. There will probably still be many sites that are not integrated with any form of Semantic Web technology ... directly. But I think it's a safe statement to claim that most or all sites will be integrated at least indirectly -- for example by being indexed and searchable in a third-party semantic search engine, or mined into other semantic apps that pull in their content and then make it available in semantic form. In any case, I agree with Danny that it will be a continuum with a power law distribution in terms of levels of integration. As Danny mentions, the present Web and the Semantic Web should not be taken as black and white. Indeed, from one perspective, as he points out, the present Web 2.0 already includes certain technologies that could be called "semantic" today, such as certain flavors of RSS, ATOM, or microformats, etc.
Danny also mentions:
Ok, looking ahead say 10 years, I don't think we'll see the use of RDF and associated tech within a large proportion of applications on the Web. But I also don't believe this is cause for pessimism, far from it. Massive deployment of SemWeb tech isn't needed for there to be a huge growth in the utility of the web thanks to that tech. Even if only say 0.0001% of applications actually use Semantic Web technologies, we will still have a Semantic Web.
I would agree with that -- as long as that 0.0001% includes several large services that are part of the "core" of the Web, services such as Yahoo, Flickr, MySpace, Facebook, or the like which are widely connected and used. If at least a good chunk of the core becomes semantic, the surrounding petals will all benefit from the increased semantics of the core, even if they don't include semantics directly themselves. However, it is my perhaps idealistic hope that we can find a way to make semantics valuable and turnkey enough that even smaller content providers will be able to include them in their apps and services. For example, the work going on with ActiveRDF could make RDF feasible for a large number of Ruby On Rails applications. Other work is going on to make triplestores and semantic search capabilities brainlessly easy to graft onto other applications as well. And of course we haven't talked about the end-user experience side of things -- for example, PiggyBank which has some built-in screenscraping in it that can turn non-semantic content into semantic content; yet another way to get a lot of semantic content created from the regular non-semantic Web. I'm not saying that PiggyBank has made it easy enough for ordinary consumers to make use of these capabilities instantly, but with some more work they could get there, or someone could at least.
Henry also reminds us:
don't forget that a Journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet. It is good to know where you are going, but the length of the journey may be frightening to some. Don't try to want to be at the end of the journey allready. You'll be there soon enough, trust me, time passes very quickly. Enjoy every second of it.
True enough, Henry! I admit my paper does spend quite a lot of pages on the big opportunities and the long-term sea-change that may come about from making the Web smarter. And realistically we are still in the very very early stages of this trend. Spending almost every waking hour, for several years, working to bring the Semantic Web to the masses has probably made me sliiiiggggghtly biased about all this! Seeing what is possible in the lab does capture the imagination and I really have "drunk the Semantic Web Kool-Aid" -- heck I drink the stuff instead of water. Perhaps it might seem like my write-up is a little bit like yelling "Hey Semantic Web Kool-Aid!" and then hoping that the big Semantic Web Kool-Aid character will burst through wall like in the TV commercial. But the difference is that at my own company at least, we really do have some Semantic Web Kool Aid flowing and we're mixing some more. Hopefully enough for a lot of ordinary consumers, and non-expert developers. I know what the stuff tastes like. It's pretty good. We're working on how to bottle and ship it now. That's the big challenge, really.
We, and others, have the technology at this point and it's the next leap beyond the mostly research-oriented Semantic Web tools that exist today (thanks for that link, Henry) -- it's more accessible to ordinary mortals. Now we just have to get our Bionic Man off the operating table and out into the world -- and we have to prove that there is a business model for Semantic Web apps too (after all we are commercial venture, not pure research). I can't think of anymore 1980's TV metaphors to use -- ok, well Star Trek, heck. It's true my long-term vision for the Semantic Web is like going on a mission to explore new worlds, far far beyond where we are today. But as Henry points out, if you know where you (might) be headed you can enjoy the ride even more!
Thanks for the feedback, guys!