The Semantic Web

2010 Short LIst: Time-to-Adoption: Two to Three Years
Appeared in the 2009 Horizon Report and as "semantic-aware applications" in the 2009 Economic Development Edition.

An increasing number of semantic-aware applications continue to emerge, bringing the web closer to Tim Berners-Lee's vision of a medium that not only allows people to share information, but to make sense of it. Applications for searching and finding, social networking, and focused research are appearing, and a new category of "smart" productivity applications has begun to emerge. These applications use the context of information as well as the content to make determinations about relationships between bits of data; examples like TripIt, SemaPlorer, and Xobni organize information about travel plans, places, or email contacts and display it in convenient formats based on semantic connections.

Semantic searching is being applied for scientific inquiries, allowing researchers to find relevant information without having to deal with apparently similar, but irrelevant, information. For instance, Noesis, a new semantic web search engine developed at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is designed to filter out search hits that are off-topic. The search engine uses a discipline-specific semantic ontology to match search terms with relevant results, ensuring that a search on "tropical cyclones" will not turn up information on sports teams or roller coasters.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning & Creative Expression

  • A wiki focused on teaching undergraduate math using Wolfram|Alpha helps students with their homework (http://walphawiki.wikidot.com).
  • Using semantic web technology, the University of Plymouth has gathered course resources that would formerly be available through the library or bookstore; the material are available online in one location, so students need not compete for the library's limited resources.
  • TrueKnowledge answers questions about history, geography, unit calculations, and more.

Examples

  • Scientists from several schools, including the University of Florida and Cornell University, have been granted funding to create a Facebook-like, scholarly website with semantic search: http://www.networkworld.com/news/2009/102009-facebook-scientists-funding.html
  • Stanford graduates created a free semantic application that allows users to find and add relevant multimedia to their blogs with ease: http://www.apture.com
  • Hakia, created using Yahoo's new Build your Own Search Service (BOSS), is a semantic web service that provides results based on quality, not popularity. One criterion, for example, is that the results come from librarian-recommended sites: http://company.hakia.com/about.html

For Further Reading

A contextual search experience for Wikipedia
http://googlecustomsearch.blogspot.com/2009/10/contextual-search-experience-for.html
(Paul Komarek, Google Custom Search Blog, 25 October, 2009.) Using this new technology will offer a contextual search experience during a Wikipedia search.

Tim Berners-Lee on the Next Web
http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_berners_lee_on_the_next_web.html
(TED Talks, February 2009.) Sir Tim Berners-Lee discusses the history and future of the web.

Wolfram alpha: Not a Google killer, but not meant to be
http://www.connected-science.com/?p=230
(Darin L. Stewart PhD, Connected Science, 18 May 2009.) Wolfram alpha seeks to answer specific questions rather than return a list of search results.