The Awesome Potential of the Semantic Web

I just listened to the most amazing podcast about the future of the web and semantic analysis. It was an interview with BYU Phd student Yihong Ding, a researcher in what my ReadWriteWeb co-author Alex Iskold calls “the top-down semantic web.” The first 15 minutes of the hour long show are about Yihong Ding’s personal background, the next 15 about his research and the last 30 about his very compelling view of the future.

This interview shows just how much untapped potential remains in the world of web applications. Once our software is capable of deriving meaning from web pages it looks at for us, there’s a whole lot of work that will already be done, allowing our human, creative minds to reach new heights.

Download MP3 [50 mins, 23Mb]

Ding’s research combines the application of a manually supplied ontology (set of terms with connections for meaning), automated analysis of the structure of a web page (what’s in h2 tags? that’s probably a section title) and learned meaning after repeated application of the above and correction by the user. It’s fascinating and a prototype should be available in the first half of next year. I hope to get an early look at it so I can write about it on ReadWriteWeb just before public launch.

The vision of the future described in the interview is beautiful. It’s one of the most clear explanations of the semantic web and what some people call web 3.0 that I’ve heard yet. I’m just starting to dive deep into this, so forgive any excess enthusiasm, but I’m telling you – it’s good stuff.

Ding’s vision of a future web not of sites and pages but of “educated agents of meaning” (smart software applications is what I’m seeing), driven by human beings to serve our needs, is a really interesting one.

His conclusion makes me think of Google Custom Search, Lijit (which I must spend some time with) and I don’t know what else. It’s got me on fire, though.

I found the interview through a path you might find of interest. It was highlighted in the blog of Talis, a vendor in the semantic space, in their This Weeks Semantic Web round up. It’s a very rich resource, not to mention a great marketing asset for the company. I found that via the blog of semantic web rock star Danny Ayers. I was reminded of Ayers’ blog and have picked it back up with a renewed interest after seeing it in a list of 60+ Semantic Web Blogs at Semantic Focus, a fascinating looking group blog where, co-incidentally interview subject Yihong Ding is a regular contributor. So we come full circle and have found a whole lot of valuable resources along the way.