The uptake of the semantic web

When I moved back to Norwaying four years back there was no Semantic Web activities in Norway. Topic Maps on the other hand was quite visible. Three years ago we were very much in the technology push. Over the last three years something has changed.

Today you are see semantic web solutions being asked for in public tenders and by commercial customers. Have our message finally gotten through to them, or are they now facing other problems than three-four years ago?

I think there are some truth to both, but I also think that we as a community have come to learn a few things.

Some of us that did not come from library science area, I believe have underestimated the importance of bridging to old schools. With this I mean especially their understanding of metadata and thesauri. Hence, while we’ve addressed areas they’re interested in, we haven’t shown them why and whem formal modeling is better, and how to bridge to known technologies.

Secondly, we’ve forgotten that customers want complete solutions, not just an an API or an OWL editor. Semantic web is at best less than 30% of a solution. The rest is boring stuff (for most of us).

Thirdly, I firmly believe that we’ve been lacking tools for visualiation. Graphs are hard, and we’ve often come to short in the dialog with the customer because web have a hard time visualizing our data and ontologies. I think in the last years we’ve seen companies addressing this issue.

Finally, I think we’re now less focused on selling a vision, and not any more overselling what we’re able to do. We all have experience with semantic web systems in practice now, and we know much more about the current limitations on scalability, performance and the like. Maybe we’re also å few years older and wiser.