The battle for the semantic web has just got started and already it's heating up as billion-dollar deals lock more and more data into specific companies.
The web, that used to be an ‘open range’ of websites where almost anything went, is being transformed into a civilized, controlled space of relational connections and semantic intent. Google’s semantic search is transforming the web in ways that are as surprising as they have been unexpected.
In a chicken-or-the-egg question, the introduction of more intelligent search engines that index information and then follow all the connections around it in an effort to truly understand it is creating a web that is far more tame and controlled than any of us would have thought possible.
In the semantic web information holds no value if its semantics, its true meaning, cannot be extracted and understood. You may have the best website in the world but that is of little use if no one interacts with its content. Interaction, usually, implies social media network sharing which, in turn, creates connections of meaning and intent that begin to truly define the value of the information being shared.
Because information only acquires semantic value through the filtering of social interaction social networks are now the prize real estate being fought over. When Yahoo plonked a cool $1.2 billion on the table for Tumblr, to all intents and purposes a failing blog aggregation site, it was its hoard of social data that made it a worthwhile catch.
Similarly Google and Facebook are in a bidding war over Waze because of its “social travel” element and the valuable set of social signals it has amassed. Digital is a construct of our offline selves and, as such, does not take long to reflect the fact. Just as most of the world’s diverse range of food products is produced by just ten global food product companies so is the web now being carved up by just five: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.
Yahoo is a late comer to the table and, at the moment, it looks unclear as to just what kind of player it will be. Its acquisition of Tumblr however was a clear signal that the semantic web is finally here and that data is now worth a lot.
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