Cardoso defines the Semantic Web as "a machine-readable World Wide Web" and he notes "a significant evolution of standards as improvements and innovations allow the delivery of more complex, more sophisticated, and more far-reaching semantic applications." (Bill Inmon, please note.)Cardoso posted to a variety of technical e-mail lists to solicit survey responses and sent 40 personal invitations. Two-thirds of the 627 responses came from academics and 18% from industry with 16% of respondents working in both academia and industry. Clearly the Semantic Web is one computing field where the balance of innovation has not yet shifted to industry, which suggests that semantic-web technology is not yet mature or broadly commercialized. But we knew that already.
Cardoso observes that the proportion of respondents who work in both academia and industry may indicate a strong technology transfer from universities to companies in the next few years. Indeed, stakes for industry are high, and academic research collaboration is viewed as key. For instance, I note that Microsoft Research has issued a new Request for Proposals, "Beyond Search – Semantic Computing and Internet Economics," in partnership with Microsoft adCenter.
Cardoso asked survey participants to report their use of ontology editors, ontology languages, and reasoning engines, software applications that derive new facts or associations from existing information. Refer to his paper for findings. He also asked about ontology domains, that is, the line of business that provides subject matter for the respondents. His findings:
The survey provides the perspective of individuals from a wide range of industries. Education and Computer Software are the best represented industries (31% and 28.5%, respectively), followed by Government (17%) and Business Services (17%). Other notable industries are the Life Sciences (16.5%), Communications (13%), the Media (12.8%) and Healthcare providers (11.3%)... Other less significant/prominent industries ... include Accessibility, Agriculture, Archaeology, eRecruitment, Geography, Geosciences, Human Resource Management, Microelectronics, Physics, Satellites, Sports, and the Toy industry.
Over 50% of respondents reported using ontologies for either or both of two purposes: to share common understanding of the structure of information among people or software agents (69.9%) and to enable reuse of domain knowledge (56.3%). These are knowledge management functions, stepping-stones on the path to the vision of autonomous software agents negotiating the Web that Tim Berners-Lee first articulated over ten years ago. Only 12.4% of answers indicated use of ontologies for purposes that are, perhaps, closer to actualization of that vision, for "code generation, data integration, data publication and exchange, document annotation, information retrieval, search, reasoning, annotating experiments, building common vocabularies, Web service discovery or mediation, and enabling interoperability."
Nonetheless, Cardoso concludes that "70% of people working on the Semantic Web are committed to deploying real-world systems that will go into production in less than 2 years."
I will close by citing a recent e-mail exchange I had with Mills Davis of Project10X. Davis wanted to let me know about the pending, mid-November release of a "Semantic Wave 2008: Industry Roadmap to Web 3.0," "the first comprehensive industry study of the next stage of internet evolution, Web 3.0." (And he let me know that he enjoyed my "What's Next for Text" white paper.)
I read Davis's prospectus and preliminary executive summary. I commented to him that the paper looks to be quite interesting but not itself in form far along in the progression "[f]rom knowledge in paper documents to digital documents to knowledge (semantic models) to agents." I asked if he will be releasing a tagged version, guessing not, that the market does not exist for such a beast yet.
Indeed and ironically no, Davis's 350-page study will not be semantically tagged. Shouldn't a paper about the Semantic Wave be marked up to enable machine processing? My conclusion is that semantic technologies, so far, are about entities and relationships and facts. There seems to be little support for narrative, that is, for delivering information in a flowing form capable of telling a story. Perhaps that semantic wave will hit our shores with Web 4.0.
Seth Grimes is an analytics strategist with Washington DC based Alta Plana Corporation and chairs the Text Analytics Summit.Prof. Jorge Cardoso of the University of Madeira, Portugal, has written a very interesting paper titled "The Semantic Web Vision: Where are We?" Cardoso surveyed over 600 academic and industry researchers in December 2006. He published his findings in the September-October 2007 issue of IEEE's Intelligent Systems journal. They include that "mainstream adoption is still five to ten years away."