From Semantic Platforms to Semantic Applications

Last decade was focused on building the underlying semantic foundations required to turn the semantic utopia into a reality. The rapid commoditization of those technologies is now happening and we should help to get a new generation of semantically-enriched tools and applications out to end-users. The time is right and everything is in place: The Deep Web is today ubiquitous, Structured and unstructured data are available in quantities never seen before, Growth perspectives are exponential. And we all start to be impacted be it as consumer or worker by this tsunami of information. With this information overload, the lack of proper filters and the absence of smarter content are becoming real problems and users now expect to see the arrival of new concrete and effective solutions.

But the semantic industry is still facing the challenge of  making semantic technologies palatable to the end consumer. Over the last couple of years, the development of underlying semantic frameworks involving linked data, natural language processing, entity extraction, ontologies or reasoners took precedence over user-driven features and usability concerns. Zemanta CTO, Andraz Tori, mentioned in a thought-provoking presentation last year: “We need to tailor the experience to specific use-cases, ignoring (powerful) technology at first and spending more than 10% of the time figuring out where the software/data are going to be used in practice. User experience is not just graphics design.” Semantic technologies are only here to help but no one has found the semantic killer application yet.

Finding the right balance between technology innovation and new pervasive ways to experience better information access and discovery is however a tough challenge. Creating and customizing the next generation of semantic based applications is still reserved to early adopters, often requiring tremendous technical skills, betting large development budgets on risky projects which have to integrate various emerging technologies.

Next generation CMSs will have to commoditize the way developers and power end-users can rapidly design, assemble and compose such applications, at a lower price, through point and click interfaces, without having to necessarily understand the whole technical complexity required to generate such semantic-aware applications.

Today semantic technologies are bringing the foundation to better understand and exploit the rich volume of information available out there. The challenges of this decade will be to build effective solutions on this new infrastructure. The Semantic Web is still mostly used as a data interchange layer. Semantic usage should become much more immersive and intuitive than it is now, performed less as an end and more transparently pre-integrated within the context of use if it wants to become mainstream.

There are hundreds of business problems the content industry can solve with current technologies without having to wait for a brighter future. Current limits are primarily based on our imagination and on bringing this new layer of semantic simplicity to the end-users. Semantics should no longer be considered as a technology, but as a means of delivering efficient business solutions.

More details about the challenges of delivering compelling semantic experiences in the keynote presentation from Stéphane Croisier at the next IKS Workshop (5th and 6th of July in Paris) or in the incoming IKS book on “Semantic Technologies in CMS”.

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