Not a Eulogy for the Semantic Web, Maybe an Elegy

August 22, 2022

If you are into the semantic Web, you will enjoy “The Semantic Web is Dead – Long Live the Semantic Web!” The article has examples, some explanation, and a prediction. Spoiler: The Semantic Web will rise like Lazarus, just wearing Amazon normcore clothing. You know: For everyone.

I noted one passage and circled it in blue:

The political economy of academia and its interaction with industry is the origin of our current lack of a functional Semantic Web. Academia is structured in a way that there is very little incentive for anyone to build useable software. Instead you are elevated for rapidly throwing together an idea, a tiny proof of concept, and to iterate on microscopic variations of this thing to produce as many papers as possible. In engineering the devil is in the detail. You really need to get into the weeds before you can know what the right thing to do is. This is simultaneously a devastating situation for industry and academia. Nobody is going to wait around for a team of engineers to finish building a system to write about it in Academia. You’ll be passed immediately by legions of paper pushers. And in industry, you can’t just be mucking about with a system that you might have to throw away. We have structured collaboration as the worst of both worlds. Academics drop in random ideas, and industry try them, find them useless, and move on.

I believe in the Tooth Fairy, not Jack Benny’s Blue Fairy. The write up, like me, is mostly optimistic. I learned:

The Future of the Semantic Web is there, the Semantic Web will rise, but it will not be the Semantic Web of the past. Humanities access to data is of ever increasing importance, and the ability to make resilient and distributed methods of curating, updating and utilizing this information is key. The ideas which drove the creation of the Semantic Web are nowhere near obsolete, even if the tool chain and technologies which have defined it up to day are fated to go the way of the dinosaur.

Now I am a dinobaby. What about Web 3-ized well-formed XML? Great idea, right?

Stephen E Arnold, August 22, 2022


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