Could the web really understand my question?

W3CPicture this - you sit down to your computer, access the web, and type ocean depth. Instead of endless pages of related and unrelated hits, the computer returns very targeted results - perhaps a bathymetric map of the world, or a peer-reviewed paper on the computational methods for converting magnetic data to ocean depth, or the data search page at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), or the average ocean depth (miles or kilometers).  In this vision, you've accessed a single entry point to virtually millions of well-formed results.

This scenario illustrates the promise of the semantic web. An end-user presents a human-understandable query to the web, and the web depends on well-formed knowledge systems to assign computer-understandable meaning. The work of metadata managers and vocabulary/ontology developers are effectively leveraged with computational power to assign meaning and computable understanding. The recent W3C announcement of an SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization System) standard [1] will effectively enable the semantic web for millions of internet users worldwide by connecting knowledge organization systems with linked data.

Excerpt from W3C Announcement. Today W3C announces a new standard that builds a bridge between the world of
knowledge organization systems — including thesauri, classifications, subject headings, taxonomies,
and folksonomies — and the linked data community, bringing benefits to both.
Libraries, museums, newspapers, government portals, enterprises, social networking applications, and other
communities that manage large collections of books, historical artifacts,
news reports, business glossaries, blog entries, and other
items can now use Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) to leverage
the power of linked data. As different communities with expertise and
established vocabularies use SKOS to integrate them into the Semantic Web, they
increase the value of the information for everyone.

As technologies have evolved, it has become easier to deposit data and scientific resources on the web.  At the same time, SKOS developers have been evaluating the language of science and creating knowledge organization systems. The new W3C standard links these two activities by using SKOS to assign meanings to tags assigned to content.

Using Semantic Web technologies, information could be accessed and
linked, such as data in medical databases, geographical information,
and government data, rather than just documents ... The Web has progressed from Web 1.0, which was about destinations, to
Web 2.0, which added social activities, to Web 3.0... "Web
3.0 is about cleaning up the mess and harvesting the value you created
in Web 2.0 and if we can make that happen, we'll have a great Web," he
said. [2]

This vital connection will enhance the complexity of the next-generation of the internet. Building on the developments of the metadata and web communities, scientific research could evolve into a distributed community of semantically interoperable, technologically advanced practitioners.


[1] From Chaos, Order: W3C Standard Helps Organize Knowledge. (Press Release from W3C, August 19, 2009)

[2] Semantic Web set for critical mass. (Article published by InfoWorld, June 16, 2009)