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Emerging Sciences of the Internet: Some New Opportunities

author: Ronald J. Brachman, Yahoo! Inc.
published: Nov. 9, 2011,   recorded: August 2007,   views: 2841
released under terms of: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike (CC-BY-SA)
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Description

Keynote presentation held at the European Semantic Web Conference (ESWC) 2007.

Semantic Web technologies have started to make a difference in enterprise settings and have begun to creep into use in limited parts of the World Wide Web. As is common in overview articles, it is easy to imagine scenarios in which the Semantic Web could provide important infrastructure for activities across the broader Internet. Many of these seem to be focused on improvements to what is essentially a search function (e.g., “list the prices of flat screen HDTVs larger than 40 inches with 1080p resolution at shops in the nearest town that are open until 8pm on Tuesday evenings” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic Web]), and such capabilities will surely be of use to future Internet users. However, if one looks closely at the research agendas of some of the largest Internet companies, it is not clear that the staples of SW thinking will intersect the most important paths of the major broad-spectrum service providers. Some of the emerging trends in the research labs of key industry players indicate that SW goals generally taken for granted may be less central than envisioned and that the biggest opportunities may come from some less obvious directions. Given the level of investment and the global reach of big players like Yahoo! and Google, it would pay us to look more closely at some of their fundamental investigations. While not all companies see the future in the same way, there are some trends and priorities that are instructive to contemplate. While Web search will continue to play a large role, and services composed from piece-parts offered by multiple vendors will be important, some relatively novel ideas may come to dominate. In one view, there will emerge a set of new sciences that are fundamental to future generations of Internet businesses. By understanding the imperatives of those new areas of thought, we may be able to get a better assessment of the true ultimate impact of SW technologies on the broader Internet. At the very least, framing future Semantic Web directions and examples in terms more aligned with some of these ideas may encourage more attention from some of the major Internet companies, which to date have shown only lukewarm interest.

Search will continue to play a significant role for users of the Internet. While from a user’s perspective the most essential thing is the ability to find a website or document or element of data relevant to a task at hand, it is critical to the service provider that, in addition to producing relevant results, it be able to expose the user to advertisements well-suited to his or her immediate and longer-term needs and interests. While not restricted to search settings, high-quality matching of ads is critical to the continued success and growth of the major Internet search and content providers. In the long run, a better understanding of users in general and customers in specific is essential to providing a better experience and providing better opportunities through advertising. This is an area where a huge amount of investment is being made. Does it provide any interesting opportunities for SW technology?

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