Thursday, November 10, 2005


RDF or Resource Description Framework is about describing web resources; where a web resource can be whatever (web pages included) you can reach with an URI. RDF is seen as the way to follow to reach an enhanced WWW known as The Semantic Web. But why do we need the Semantic Web? Why do we need RDF?

This weblog post can help you realize why the web needs to be semantically enabled. The author says that if you are looking for a hotel in New York City and you start searching for “New York Hotel” in a search engine, you’ll end up with wrong results like “The New York Hotel in Las Vegas” or “Hotel New York in Rotterdam”.

Web pages don’t have information that states that “this page is a Hotel’s web page”, and that “the hotel has WiFi” and that “the hotel is located in the city of New York” and “the price range is between this and that”, and so on. This scenario can be reproduced with most of our daily searches. The crawlers of the search engines cannot do anything more than scan the whole text of the web pages and do some magic to allow us to search, hopefully finding what we are really looking for.

The promise of the Semantic Web & RDF is an improved Web where we could effectively find what we are really looking for.

But, and this is an important but, before RDF reaches critical mass, there’s a long way to go until we ‘normal’ people start thinking that the Semantic Web, RDF and metadata is something we all need.

Many people argue that the problem with RDF is its RDF/XML encoding; it’s difficult to read and thus stops people from using it. Although I agree completely (I understand RDF quite well but I often fail miserably when I have to write an RDF/XML document by hand), I think that there is another reason: For almost all users of the web, writing descriptive information of their web pages is not cool, metadata is not cool. HTML reached mass adoption because if I change a paragraph and hit F5, it appears the page updated in front of me. With metadata the benefits are not so evident.

In my opinion the big deal is to make metadata attractive for everyone. We should all be metadata addicted for the Semantic Web to arrive.

Having said that, I’m optimistic regarding the Semantic Web. If it doesn’t arrive, then I’ll be pessimistic about the future of the Web though. Some interesting things have happened recently in the Semantic Web arena; for instance the release of a new RDF query language and protocol by W3C (SPARQL) and some curiosities too like the fact that Google is hiring RDF guys...

If you want to read about RDF, don't miss this quick and excellent introduction to RDF.

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