Adding semantic information to the web has been on the agenda for a number of years (at least since 2001), and is high on the hype cycle. It is clear the value of web semantics once they exist – real automated digital assistants, search engines that can find what we meant – not just what we asked for. Practically magic.
So why aren’t web semantics evolving as fast as the web itself (though it seems like a new search engine claiming semantic capability if born almost day)? One key reason is that it is still in the domain of techies - all but meaningless to 95% of regular web users. To really start taking off requires harnessing that 95% of the web, making it useful and profitable for regular web users to generate useful web semantics – for their own benefit (or as Adam Smith put it – “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest..”).
OK, how do we spark this self interest and get the broader web community providing the semantics? The key is to take advantage of the currency of the web - advertising. Everybody is trying to make money off their sites by advertising. What if you could double, or triple advertising revenue by describing what your site is about (i.e simple semantics) just by a simple procedure that is no harder than what is needed to just get regular advertisements on your site? Even better, what if someone else could do for you, and you share the additional revenue (Tom Sawyer would be proud).
So it really is simple – make it so easy to add semantics that anyone can do it, make it worthwhile ($$$) so that everyone will to do it. Then sit back and watch web semantics start taking off. It won’t be perfect, but at least it will start to flesh-out and start evolving at the same velocity as the web itself.