Bray on the Semantic Web. Tim Bray, the co-creator of XML, posted this response to Clay Shirky's essay questioning the potential success of the Semantic Web. Tim's writing is, as usual, thoughtful and with the perspective of someone who's dealt with such issues for some time. But I've worked in the metadata world as well, and I tend to side with Clay on this one.
Tim uses as an example the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) and suggests that companies could post their financial data at URIs such as http://data.company-name.com. He writes, "There is very little information as valuable as quantitative data about the performances of businesses and markets; if a Machine-Processable (not to say Semantic) Web canít be built in this domain it canít be built anywhere."
Really? In the big scheme of things, I don't think financial data is all that important. It's also already far more structured due to existing reporting requirements than most of the other information in the collective human knowledgebase. As Shirky might say, isn't formalizing financial data the easy part of the job?
Earlier this year, Dan Bricklin began a grass-roots effort to create a poor-man's XBRL called SMBmeta (for small/medium business metadata). As far as I can tell, it pretty much died on the vine.
I like the theory behind the Semantic Web, but I remain skeptical that it will work to the extent required to build the critical mass necessary for its success.
Posted Sunday, November 09, 2003 6:14:46 PM