Where are the Semantic Web applications

There’s been an increase of interest about the semantic web lately.

One particular question and answer in Danny’s interview has to do with the seeming cultural divisions associated with the semantic web.

Some say: “Europeans have developed the Semantic Web and Americans are going to capitalise it.” What is your opinion?

Danny Ayers: Six months ago I attended the SemTech conference in San José. There were quite a few European folks with solid projects approaching venture capitalists and vice versa. The impression I got was that of a significant culture clash, with the Europeans generally caught on the wrong-foot.

I have also attended most of the Italian SemWeb conferences (SWAP) and there have seen many demos of potentially lucrative applications, which got forgotten once the presenter gained their doctorate.

At the same time, as far as the (Semantic) Web is concerned, national barriers count for nothing. I live in an 8-cat town in Tuscany and work for a UK company, the US-based company OpenLink has an expert in Outer Siberia.

Internationalization of communication aside, I’ve also noticed what seems to be a shift of semantic web research to Europe, while the States focus on, well, Twitter. Google. Facebook. Cloud Computing. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense—the States seem to be focusing on business based on known, possibly even exhausted technology and knowledge, while Europe is focusing on research for its own sake.

It may not seem like a big deal, but research without an endgame is nothing more than ego wrapped up in white papers. At the same time, a business that is focused purely on the moment isn’t going to take the web in new directions. Instead, we’ll be like the dog chasing its tail—all excited movement that doesn’t really go anywhere.

However, I haven’t been following the semantic web community as closely as I once did, and my view may be skewed because of it. The fact that this question was asked, though, shows I’m not the only one seeing a decidedly cultural bias in focus and interest.

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