Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Semantic Web - Technology Maturity

I recently read an article about the golden age of software architecture written by Mary Shaw and Paul Clements. They have a section on how technologies mature, therefore I thought about where the Semantic Web is on that six-phase scale. I believe that the Semantic Web lies at the end of stage four, moving towards stage five. Here is why:

- Basic Research: Basic ideas and concepts have been investigated. The structure of the Semantic Web has been defined, and the different layers have been identified and described into details.
- Concept formulation: There is a wide research community available, which has refined the concepts available in the Semantic Web, converging on a set of ideas and continuously refining the structure of it.
- Development and Extension: Preliminary applications of the Semantic Web have been spotted since a couple of years. One of the first such applications has been Dublin Core, a vocabulary for distributed Digital Libraries.
- Internal enhancement and exploration: Semantic Web has been extended to other domains, such as biology, and has been used for real problems such as a better way to integrate and combine data. In addition, specific companies offer training. The problem is that the tools are not yet quite there in terms of usability, in terms of making it easy for the user.
- External enhancement and exploration: The problem here is that a broader community of people who are not developers is not involved. There are not a lot of companies that use Semantic Web technologies. There is yet to be shown a substantial evidence of value and applicability. In my opinion, better known companies need to use Semantic Web. If you look at Ajax, the technologies behind it were known for a long time; but before Google Maps used it, it was not adopted in a broad manner.
- Popularization: There are commercial products that use Semantic Web; hence, the technology has been marketed.

In conclusion, even though part of phase five and six are available, there are incomplete. Without broader support, without better tools, without making it easier for the user to understand and use the technology, it will never become popular. Furthermore, even if we were to teach Semantic Web in Universities, it would make little difference because the industry needs also to adopt it more openly and frequently.

I would love to hear from somebody who has more experience with the Semantic Web and maybe a different view on where it lies in the six-phase system.

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