I have voiced my concerns that the rise of Web 3.0 in the need for the Semantic Web might mean a return to a whole series on approaches that have been around for quite a few years now without actually getting anywhere meaningful. I was hoping to be proved wrong and that new approaches would emerge that built on the new capabilities and thinking that have emerged, and are still emerging.
I am delighted to find DBpedia.org which describes its self as ‘querying Wikipedia like a database’ and goes on to offer the explanation; DBpedia.org is a community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia and to make this information available on the Web. DBpedia allows you to ask sophisticated queries against Wikipedia and to link other datasets on the Web to Wikipedia data.
It’s the reasoning and approach to the usual issue of unstructured people centric content and structured computer centric data that is so interesting. There is an acceptance of the fact that content can, and will be built, and maintained, more effectively by people but as it stabilises patterns can be determined used to create the stable structured semantic element. The approach is technically well known being based on Resource Description Framework, or RDF, and the project offers a toolkit for developers to perform the work in a consistent way.
Okay so far so good as a theory, but currently there have been 91 million RDF triples created this way in pretty well all the major languages so it seems to work in practice too. Exactly what is working here is the interesting part. It seems that it has been possible to persuade a significant number of people that having content on Wikipedia is not good enough, and that it must be transferred into a structured form as well. My first thought was that may be the Wikipedia authors were prepared to do this work and create even wider use of their material, then on closer inspection something else emerged.
The driving force for this work wasn’t around semantics for computers as we understand the original definition, it was to create query tables for web pages which could use Wikipedia inputs as dynamic up dates. That’s a new way of thinking about the Semantic Web, and justifies it being called Web 3.0, around the connection with Web 2.0.
The same technique can be used for blogs too, and of course MashUps, or indeed to provide a structured support for any number of the new capabilities that are emerging around using web pages. If the project can maintain momentum in the market and gain general acceptance then it might just be the next step to WiKis and their improved management and exploitation for Business use.