Sir Timothy Berners-Lee addresses TED March 2009
It’s not just for Boffins and Geeks
For those of us who have long been immersed in the evolution of Social Media – also known as Web 2.0 – we are now looking forwards to the evolution of Web 3.0. Let me introduce you to the future zeitgeist, otherwise known as The Semantic Web. The excitement lies in the broad scope of possibilities.
A year ago in the above video, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, inventor of The World Wide Web, addressed TED in 2009, encouraging us to have an ‘open web’, where we upload all the data we have, to share it and allow others to freely merge data and draw new and interesting insights.
This merging of information we call Mashables, and they are giving rise to an amazing array of infographics that help us to have a better understanding of a wide range of topics. One year later at TED he reviewed some of the emerging mash-ups. You can review them here.
This enormous mine of data is ripe for Developers, for whom Semantic Web is described as the creation of intuitive applications, most notably for search and data. Semantic Web helps us wade through the volumes of information we deal with on a daily basis.
It has been claimed that the current generation of children will process more information while at school, than their grandparents encountered in a lifetime. So intuitive navigation of data is going to be vital to us all.
The lifting of privacy in Social Media
Marketers are accused of hijacking the term Semantic Web and sullying it for the purposes of creating branded Social Media promotions. But as I have held in previous posts, Social Media is just part of the way we communicate today, it is not unique to consumers, it’s open to commerce and hence Marketing.
As Sir Tim puts it, Social Media is data rooted in relationships and interests, so merging learnings from your profiles, forum contributions, reviews, tweets, status, comments and blogs will just be a part of the data mix. The lifting of privacy on Social Media platforms such as Facebook are their first steps along this path to creating more accurate search mechanisms. It will also potentially create more revenue for them.
Acknowledging that the technology has been bubbling along for some time now, many developers conclude that The Semantic Web is ten years away. But what I perceive is that Marketing muscle, by way of funding, is what will accelerate the development of Semantic Web technology.
The potential of harnessing this data will become invaluable for brands, so Marketers will be using the power of raw data in the near future to their advantage. With Facebook now also opening up, Social Media savvy Marketers will have access to even more sensitive and personal data about their customers.
What can Semantic Web do for brands?
One of the huge advantages to Marketers will be the ability to take this personalised data to drill down to find your core customer accurately, using Semantic Web.
While once Direct Marketing promised to take us directly to our primary audience, our current Social Media platforms go closer still. Using Semantic Web, it narrows the field considerably. The technology is there. It will just take the merging of creative marketing minds with developers to hook into it.
In short, Semantic Web can answer the questions Google can’t cope with. Take for example Apple‘s recent purchase of ‘Siri‘. It’s a Mobile App “Assistant” – using Semantic Web tech. I feel strongly that this is an indication of what will roll out on a broader level through Social Media in the very near future.
This is how Siri describes itself: “You can ask Siri to find a romantic place for dinner, tell you what’s playing at a local jazz club or get tickets to a movie for Saturday night.” Basically what it does is scan multiple aggregators, sites and search engines so that you don’t have to, forming a virtual assistant that does all the leg work.
For me, web API and Smartphone applications already feel clunky and inefficient, as I know it’s possible to do so much more with Semantic Web tech. Wouldn’t you like to just say into your phone: “Tell Dad I’m running late” or “Move my meeting from 3pm to 5pm” “or deliver 20 data lines to HSBC Sydney HQ” and have it automated for you? Soon you will be able to do just that.
For the benefit of Marketers, this will be pitched as time saving tools that you add to your promotional mix. Imagine saying to your phone: “Making Masterfoods Chilli con Carne, 7pm tonight, invite”, resulting in your phone app assistant sourcing a recipe, scanning data of the contents of your fridge, creating a shopping list and ordering the ingredients online to be delivered when you get home.
Then it will update your status to your select group of chilli loving friends on your preferred Social Media Platforms to say, “Hot stuff! Making Masterfoods Chilli for the gang tonight – be there 8pm” including an RSVP prompt, placing it in their calendar, and adding a link to the recipe. Meanwhile you’ve received a list of attendees, any allergies they may have, a video demo of the recipe and a countdown of what you need to prepare.
For some this is a crude use of the technology. Realistically its practical use indicates the early future of Semantic Web for commerce.
But of course it’s not all about commerce
In a more noble vein, Sir Tim mentions that it may also help significantly in the development, understanding and diagnostics of medicine. Of course there’s also fantastic scope for philanthropy, altruism, for artistic applications, social justice, gaming and a way to simplify bureaucracy. In fact, the more imaginative we are, the more we can put all that data to work for us.
So it’s time for society to invest in the future and for the big dreamers to all put our heads together with Semantic Web Developers.
Looking at the big picture, The Semantic Web is exciting stuff indeed.
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