An Introduction to the Semantic Web

19 Apr 2011  |  Web Web Development

The definition of the semantic web (sometimes referred to as Web 3.0) from Wikipedia: “The Semantic Web is a “web of data” that enables machines to understand the semantics, or meaning, of information on the World Wide Web. It extends the network of hyperlinked human-readable web pages by inserting machine-readable metadata about pages and how they are related to each other, enabling automated agents to access the Web more intelligently and perform tasks on behalf of users.”

The term was originally used by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, and describes the semantic web technologies and markups used to define information on the web. Broad semantic web applications include use in the scientific fields and for data exchange in a particular industry.

Notable semantic web elements introduced in HTML5 include <section>, <article>, <header> and <nav> which improve the semantic content in a webpage.  These further evolve the information in a website to allow the data to be more easily interpreted and understood by machines.

The Resource Description Framework

The Resource Description Framework (RDF) is one method proposed by the W3C to make the web “machine-readable” and consists of a number of object expressions called triples which can be used in a SQL-like query language for data manipulation. The triple consists of a subject, a predicate, and an object. An example is: Refresh Creative Media (Subject) has email (predicate) info@refresh.co.za (object).

This allows automated machines to make logical decisions about data based on the associations by the RDF schema.

Current Semantic Web Examples

Blogging in popular  platforms, such as WordPress, already allow for some degree of the semantic web use with tagging and categorising posts. Semantic blogging however, could use a universal tagging system, allowing better aggregation of the information by automated systems and ultimately providing better information for the user.

RSS Feeds and readers use a form of semantic web to categorise information into useful and understandable data.

By creating a universal method of defining associations between objects, the semantic web can make the process of trawling through the billions of webpages on the internet a less time consuming process by allowing machines to do all the hard work for us. It may still be some time before this occurs, but it certainly will be a further evolution of the web when it does.

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