The Semantic Web

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Semantic: “Part of the structure of language, along with phonology, morphology, syntax, and pragmatics, which involves understanding the meaning of words, sentences, and texts.” Google define:semantic

Computers exist as machines with memory, but without understanding. Movies like Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines depict computers with the ability to share information with each other and understand that information. For this to happen computers and the applications that run on computers must have some form of reference description framework and common language.

People can take information from one computer system and understand it and the relationships that information might have with information on another computer system. Computers, on the other hand, can only share and process information. Computers have no capabilities to freely associate information not directly linked or associated to other information.

For example, Peter is my friend and I am Peter’s friend. While a searcher might seek information about Peter the relationship on Peter’s web site may not indicate that we are friends. If I indicated, on my web site, that we are friends, search engines that are semantically capable can bring the information together.

Some browsers include the ability to find related web sites. Some toolbar plug-ins for Internet Explorer include the ability to find related web sites. These two tools provide some basic semantic functionality. These two tools often provide odd results that seem totally unrelated. However, these tools operate on functionality barely comparative to the true vision of the semantic web.

The Resource Description Framework allows the semantic web to exist. The framework requires a common programming and naming schema. This schema then allows various computers to talk to each other and begin to understand how supposedly unrelated information can actually be related.

A sociological research project sought to find out the relationship between temperature and crime levels. This research project showed an increase in crime as temperatures increase. Interestingly a correlation with temperature also showed ice cream sales increased as the temperature increased. Humorously, one could say that crime increases as ice cream sales increase or that ice cream sales have a direct relationship with crime.

Until computers are smart enough to rationally evaluate relationships between information the semantic web will not exist. The visionaries at the World Wide Web Consortium believe that computers can reach this level of understanding. The development of the Resource Description Framework can help achieve this understanding.

However, computers must have an artificial intelligence before they can understand the relationships between various data. Google’s Topical Match exists as a first attempt for Google’s search engine to become semantically aware. Google hopes that as it becomes semantically aware its results will become more relevant. And even more excitingly when people search for information related information can be returned as well.

If we examine how people associate semantic relationships we find people can be talking about the same thing using different words and phrases. Take, for example, “the glass is half empty” and “the glass is half full.” While the views are different the phrases mean the same thing. More elaborate examples exist and as professionals we often find ourselves in debates which end up with someone realizing it’s a matter of semantics.

When computer applications become semantically aware, they will be able to understand the nuances of language. Instead of computers thinking on a two-dimensional level, computers will be able to think three-dimensionally and find relations that may not be obvious. This will help us when performing research on products or research covering other topics.

No longer would we be stifled by the simple “what’s related” or “similar pages” offered by the search engines. We will be able to broaden our understanding of the topic.

The semantic web will enable search engines to provide more information relating to the topics people search for. Instead of providing a flat presentation based strictly upon the words in the query, search engines will be smart enough to realize what the searcher is actually seeking. Not just offering correct spellings, but actually offering highly relevant information.

Lee Roberts President/CEO of target="_blank">Rose Rock Design, Inc. and owner/developer of the Apple
Pie Shopping Cart
the search engine friendly shopping cart.

The Semantic Web
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