It’s all Semantics

Posted By BrokenClaw on June 15, 2008

Semantic web is a new buzzword on the Internet. It refers to an improvement in the way that webpages are coded, so that computers can better understand, and make judgments on, the information they contain.

Some people have described it as adding “reading comprehension” to Internet computers. In other words, the goal is to have the computers be able to comprehend a concept which is not explicit in the text.

For the typical home user, the semantic web would be most evident in search results. For example, suppose you wanted to know what pets Virginia Woolf had. If you do a search for “Virginia Woolf pets”, current search engines will show you webpages about Virginia Woolf that contain the words pet or pets. However, suppose there is a fine webpage which discusses in great detail Virginia Woolf’s relationship with her faithful Irish Setter. If the word pet does not appear on the page, the page does not appear in your search results. However, with a semantic web, the search engine would understand that an Irish Setter is a dog, and that when a dog appears on the page near a proper name, it is likely a pet.

Anther example of a concept that the semantic web would address would be something like color. Consider the question, “What is the main color of the flag of Michigan?” Current search technology will show you pages about colors, about flags, about Michigan, and, hopefully, specifically about the flag of Michigan. However, a semantic web could answer that question directly from a webpage that states, “The flag of Michigan is a crest on a deep blue background”, even though the word color does not appear on the page, because the semantic web would know that blue is a color.

From a more technical standpoint, the semantic web would help make connections between things like stock numbers, product descriptions, and prices. While you can easily understand the relationship on the webpage by looking across a chart, without a semantic web, the computer doesn’t understand the connection.

The implementation of a semantic web is a lofty goal for the future of the Internet.There are many technologies that would have to be standardized and accepted by webpage writers and publishers to make their pages “semantic”.

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