Yesterday we began our look back at the year in semantic technology here. Today we continue with more expert commentary on the year in review:
Ivan Herman, W3C Semantic Web Activity Lead:
I would mention two things (among many, of course).
- Schema.org had an important effect on semantic technologies. Of course, it is controversial (role of one major vocabulary and its relations to others, the community discussions on the syntax, etc.), but I would rather concentrate on the positive aspects. A few years ago the topic of discussion was whether having 'structured data', as it is referred to (I would simply say having RDF in some syntax or other), as part of a Web page makes sense or not. There were fairly passionate discussions about this and many were convinced that doing that would not make any sense, there is no use case for it, authors would not use it and could not deal with it, etc. Well, this discussion is over. Structured data in Web sites is here to stay, it is important, and has become part of the Web landscape. Schema.org's contribution in this respect is very important; the discussions and disagreements I referred to are minor and transient compared to the success. And 2012 was the year when this issue was finally closed.
- On a very different aspect (and motivated by my own personal interest) I see exciting moves in the library and the digital publishing world. Many libraries recognize the power of linked data as adopted by libraries, of the value of standard cataloging techniques well adapted to linked data, of the role of metadata, in the form of linked data, adopted by journals and soon by electronic books... All these will have a profound influence bringing a huge amount of very valuable data onto the Web of Data, linking to sources of accumulated human knowledge. I have witnessed different aspects of this evolution coming to the fore in 2012, and I think this will become very important in the years to come.
Shyam Kapur, President and CEO, TipTop Technologies Inc.:
First/second generation solution providers are either wiped out or absorbed after consolidation with larger players. We are unlikely to see any serious innovation emerging from them anymore. The next generation is beginning to emerge strongly. More individuals and businesses are now aware of the limitations of the early players and keen to try out stronger approaches. ….The only truly semantic technologies are those that do have some cognitive authenticity at their core. For any serious application, accuracy of results is very important. As much as possible, the results obtained should solve a problem end to end. If having human input at any stage is an essential element for a working solution, this inevitably reduces significantly the value of a semantic technology. Putting together disparate technologies and solutions to create what seems like a whole is exactly the wrong way to build a rich and accurate solution. More and more people and companies are recognizing this.
In the semantic technology business community we have witnessed tremendous progress in terms of quality and features that ease the development and deployment of more powerful and lasting Linked Data solutions. A very welcomed and exciting development for business professionals indeed!
A significant development in 2012 for me was that the Lotico community welcomed its 20,000th member. After a few sobering events in the semantic business community in 2012, my expectation was actually that the community growth would slow a little. But quite the opposite is the case; we continue to experience 30 percent-plus growth rate figures p.a in the Lotico community in particular on the "edges" (new domains) of the network. I think we could easily see the Lotico network hit 26,000 members in 2013
Leo Sauermann, CEO of Gnowsis:
I saw a large uptake in Linked Open Data, especially in DATA.GOV. The services get better and the topic is established now. There is a need for governments to publish data and there is a need for companies to retrieve data, which is a perfect market match. The technologies involved are mature and there have been success stories. So this gets better and better.
In Austria, we have seen an uptake of new datasets in data.gv.at, and I was aware of updates to published data based on user feedback, which is a good sign that companies and government are already interacting here.
Many projects slowed down development or ceased to exist. Our own Files-RDF framework Aperture.sf.net, which allows developers to turn any file format and many structured data sources to RDF, didn't see many contributions by external developers. We, the admins, decided to hibernate development for now, as all developers moved on to other tasks, so it is up for any takers to maintain.
Schema.org is well established by now and the big search providers (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yandex) are actively working on it. This is a clear sign that the general semantic web idea was well accepted for public data on the web. [However], interesting data sets are scarce and I was not aware of any silver-bullet use case of this data besides the search engines.
I liked the rise of Poolparty.biz, the thesaurus manager and automatic classifier. It shows that SKOS and Semantic Web background information is relevant in enterprise settings and the customers they have done this year are impressive.
The conferences have grown and are stable and many software providers are profitable (just see through the sponsors of SemTech).
Amit Sheth, LexisNexis Ohio Eminent Scholar, Kno.e.sis Center, Wright State University:
Democratization of Semantics: So far, we have paid the majority of our attention to knowledge representation, languages, and reasoning. Furthermore, a majority of the work focuses on documents in enterprises and on the Web, or uses structured data transformed into triples. But, what is even more exciting, is how semantics and Semantic Web technology (primarily through annotating data with respect to background knowledge or ontologies) is being used for improving interoperability and analysis of different types of textual and non-textual data, especially social data and data generated by sensors, devices, or Internet of Things.
These types of data have long overtaken traditional document-centric data and structured databases in terms of volume, velocity, and variety. The type of semantics one needs to deal with for such (relatively) non-traditional data is of amazing variety. For example, in the Twitris system, besides semantic annotation for spatial, temporal, and thematic elements associated with the tweets, semantics (aka meaning) also includes understanding people (about the poster and receiver), network (about interactions and flow of message), sentiment, emotion, and intent. (For more in-depth treatment, see our just-published book on Web 3.0.) This is probably the most important development in my view and is likely to garner a much larger share of attention related to the application of semantics and semantic web technologies.
Nova Spivack, CEO and co-founder, Bottlenose:
- Sentiment analysis against the Twitter firehose. Now widely available via many vendors, including as an optional stream augmentation from Datasift.
- Datasift augmenting the Twitter stream with better metadata in general.
- The rise of IVA's (intelligent virtual assistants) for special purposes (for example, take a look at nextit.com -- a company that I now advise).
Thanks, 2012, for a fun-filled year in the Semantic Web! And thanks to our experts for their perspectives on it!