If I tell you my name is Sammy and that I like to write about technology, you’ll understand. But when a computer stumbles onto “My name is Sammy, and I like to write about technology” it doesn’t know what to think. Most of the Web, according to computers, is a bunch of indistinguishable gibberish. All they can do is present us with some files and text and leave us to make sense of it.
In order to change this, some technologists have devised ways to help computers better understand the content they are transmitting.
One example is Semantic HTML. HTML, as we have learned, is comprised of a series of HTML tags (<div> tags, <section> tags, <author> tags), each with its own specific function and meaning. The dirty secret of HTML is that you can get away with using tags in ways that you are not supposed to (like using <p> tags when you are writing a list and should be using an <ol> tag). Your website will look just fine, but the computer won’t know that you have written a list because all you told it was that you wrote some paragraphs.
Once computers do understand the meaning of content on the web, a whole new world of possibilities opens up.
You know when your friend writes you an email inviting you to lunch and your iPhone can recognize the date and makes it easy for you to add it to your calendar? That’s the Semantic Web in action! Apple has programmed your phone to recognize a date and know that you want to add it to your calendar.
Cocktail Party Fact
Another method for the Semantic Web is the Friend of a Friend (FOAF) protocol, which creates a standardized way to explain to a computer relationships between different people.
When someone is describing their relationship to someone else using the Friend of a Friend specification, they have ten options to choose from. These include: “spouse of” and “acquaintance of” as well as “antagonist of” and “enemy of”! Unfortunately, “gets brunch with” and “pet sits for” or “is hooking up with” are not yet included.