The Semantic Web is an extension of the World Wide Web. It is established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to emphasize the ‘meaning’ of information, rather than the’ structure’ that holds the information. Similar to what Web 1.0 accomplished by removing the limits of network and physical layers, followed by the emergence of Web 2.0 which supplied an enormous amount of data thanks to social media, the Semantic Web (also referred to as Web 3.0, web of data, linked web) is set out to remove the limits of documents and API structures in order to allow data to be shared and reused across these boundaries. In other words, the Semantic Web will provision the most up-to-date content from any information source, regardless of the original source structure (i.e. Excel spreadsheet, a web page hosted on a specific web-site, or a presentation hosted on a specific application).
Under the hood of the Semantic Web is the Resource Description Framework (RDF) which is a metadata data model specification to describe internet resource. RDF catalogs information in triples. A triple consists of a subject, predicate, and an object. For example: BigPharma (subject), has compound (predicate), Panacea-thol (object).
One Semantic Web use case details how a big pharma company had product release managers who keep all the drug batch release info in various Excel spreadsheets. These spreadsheets hold answers to key questions such as ‘What batches are due for release next week?’ and ‘How long does it take to release a specific batch?’ It was a challenge to standardize the spreadsheets to keep information uniform, and equally difficult to obtain the most current information from the disparate sources.
By applying Semantic Web technology, the information from these various spreadsheets was linked into a single unified view. There was no need to change the original spreadsheets. The Semantic Web delivered a dynamic system that unified the information from the various disparate sources, and presented the latest, most current information in real-time. It accomplished this with no changes required on the original sources.
Although Semantic Web has much to offer, many organizations are still unaware of this. For the ones who have made the adoption, there is still a gap to address the overall vision of an entire web of interoperable data. Also, the learning curve can be quite steep. Given these challenges, industry leaders should embrace this next version of the web and reap the benefits of shared information.