Is the Semantic Web Off-Track?

One of my favorite bloggers, Stephen Downes, seems to think so. Check out his recent article, Whither the Semantic Web?

…What’s the “Semantic Web?”, and why should content professionals care?…

Well, since I’ve become a bit of a metadata junkie, I’ve been following the progress of this W3C project. The goal is to extend the current Web using RDF and other standards in order to better describe all kinds of online information with metadata. This will basically allow both computers and people to access and use online information more effectively – something that has important content implications.

Although this article is a bit geeky for most content professionals, it’s worth reading. Downes is actually calling for this project to be made more relevant and accessible to people like me.

It boils down to two key points:
(NOTE: I’m paraphrasing here. This is my synopsis of Downes’ message, he didn’t break it down this way.)

  1. In order to succeed, the Semantic Web must be easy to understand and use – something that its developers don’t yet appear to fully appreciate.

  2. The structured nature of webfeeds (RSS, Atom, etc.) effectively makes them part of the Semantic Web, even though they weren’t created as part of the W3C effort. The Semantic Web project should readily embrace and include such serendipitous developments, especially when they become popular.

…In short, Downes is rallying against “silo thinking”, since silo thinking is the antithesis of a connected, versatile information environment. I hope the Semantic Web developers hear his message. Otherwise it might become needlessly difficult territory in the next editorial frontier.