Sounds like someone is trying to ring the funeral bell for the semantic web:
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to mark the end of an era. I’m talking about the passing of Web 3.0 – ostensibly the era of the next great revolution in the information industry.
In its short life the semantic web we knew so little passed through the peak of inflated expectation, went round the cape of unrealistic ambition and finally found a resting place in the great junkyard of unwanted technology in the virtual cloud. At one time our information industry seemed to have the most to gain (or lose) from the threats and opportunities presented by our recently lost friend. So, what went wrong?
The era passed with the recent announcement by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft of the launch of schema.org. Schema.org provides technical documentation on the ways in which the major search engines will recognize structured data in your web pages. It shows how to get rich snippets of content and data from your site directly into search engine results pages. Rich snippets are the next step in the evolution of search, because they allow search engines to read meaningful semantics into content on the web.
For an e-commerce centric publishing tech company, it seems true. From their point of view, getting your wares harvested by ‘Bingle’ and other commercial partners is the only thing that really matters. Microdata could do this reasonably well with minimal extra hassle.
When we explored the emerging schema.org microdata formats as part of the COMET investigation into linked data, (plug) we found the two technologies to have different and in some cases complimentary uses. One improves search engine results display (if not harvesting and ranking, not got a clue about that) the other provides structured datasets for total re-purposing or enrichment. Schema.org is a better way of presenting documents for scraping. Linked Data (RDF or not) is a better way of sharing re-usable metadata. Neither totally works for academic libraries either.
What the blog does not acknowledge that the semantic web has actually died and been reborn several times, with Linked Data being perhaps the most popular incarnation yet. And that search engines have not outrightly ignored one format in favour of another, they are simply promoting schema.org right now as it fits their model.
Neither linked data nor embedded HTML 5 microdata can meet all use case requirements for semantic enrichment of documents and data. And because neither is the expected semantic magic bullet train we’ve all been hoping to catch for the past ten years, each will have its critics.
Both mechanisms are also equally open to being abused. Anyone remember search engine meta tags?
Back in HE and cultural heritage where we think about the Internet in terms beyond search engines and advertising, there is still strong interest in linked data. Here in the UK, the JISC are funding resource discovery projects with linked data firmly in mind. Its still experimental, but has such a wide potential application that it can’t be ignored.
Carl Grant from Ex Libris has a wonderfully pragmatic approach to Linked Data. We need better and new examples of its functionality (as core services, rather than tech demos). Don’t discount it, but don’t expect to make a profit yet either. Laying long term foundations takes time.