Incentives & Roadblocks for Participating in the Semantic Web

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by Griffin Caprio

As exposure of the Semantic Web (SW) grows, companies are pushing back against participation citing a number of concerns. These concerns include attribution, performance, reliability and reciprocity, among others. This includes both data publishers and data consumers.

For publishers, chief amongst these concerns can be simply put as "What's in it for me?". While retailers like Best Buy are quick to see the value of publishing data with semantic markup in order to increase their search visibility, individual benefits to other industries are not as clear. This is especially true when, if successful, the publishers information will be aggregated alongside any number of additional sources, possibly losing any sort of attribution for the original publisher. For consumers, the distributed design of HTTP & the World Wide Web has created unparalleled access to information. However, it's also created a frail infrastructure on which to depend on for individual pieces of data. Web servers regularly disappear, links go dead and latency hinders immediate access to some information. How can consumers, including application developers, be convinced to build applications on top of fragile, possible transient, data stores that they themselves do not own and control?

What can be done to address these concerns? Such concerns cannot simply be dismissed by equating the Semantic Web with the World Wide Web and assuming participation will be guaranteed. Instead, the SW community must take a hard look at other disciplines & applications of distributed data sharing ( such as P2P networks ) for patterns and practices that can be applied to the SW. Only then can the pragmatic adoption of the SW begin.