> Dear John et al.,
> As a long time passive casual reader of this list and having even
> participated in some ONTOLOG sessions in the past (circa 2005), I
> first want to say that I always appreciate your posts. They are
> always clear and full of wisdom.
> I found this one to be particular thoughtful, pragmatic, and to the
> point. Like you, I too am also of the opinion that the Semantic Web
> community has made a series of mistakes at the architecture, design,
> and implementation as well as business level, which are likely to
> prevent it (and associated technologies) from ever going mainstream on
> the Web.
> As a new researcher and observer of what goes on related to the Web in
> Silicon Valley, I was quickly brought down to earth in 2004 when I
> tried to sell and show early efforts and research in Semantic Web.
> Upon a deeper (though casual) analysis of the reality in the valley
> and going back to my software engineering roots, I came to the
> realization, like you, that Semantic Web technologies and artifacts
> are simply not meshing well with Web technologies. However, unlike
> your excellent DB-focused analysis, mine was around Software
> Engineering and in particular the lack of agility in Semantic Web
> tools and technologies.
> Web developers want quick and malleable results that they can quickly
> show to their stakeholders. The reason is simply that with the
> Internet, software cycles are shorter and shorter. To stay in
> business, companies and developers must show completely working
> systems soon, otherwise clients move on. Agility is paramount.
> Frameworks like Ruby on Rails, PHP/Zend, and Python/Django have gained
> wide acceptance and popularity in recent months (past 36 months or so)
> primarily due to their uncanny ability to get you up and running on
> the Web in a matter of hours, not days. You simply need an idea, a
> relational database, and a server, and a few hours of programming.
> Indeed many of the mushrooming Facebook applications and other hot Web
> 2.0 and 2.x applications are now done in these frameworks over
> weekends here in the valley... With cloud computing, the database and
> the servers requirements are themselves becoming commodities that you
> can pay for by the hour---only increasing the pressures to have quick
> and agile development.
> Semantic Web, and various aspects of initial versions of Web services
> for that matter, required heavy tooling or 'big up front designs"
> which are antithesis to the core virtues of the Web. That with the
> fact that they mostly ignored the staying power and value of the
> relational data model, made them unknown and heavy to developers. The
> return on such huge up front investment to use Semantic Web tools is
> simply too big to justify the minimal returns...
> Additionally, in my opinion, the Achilles heels of the Semantic Web
> was maybe the fact the designers seemingly ignored one of the reasons
> of the Web's success. The simple fact fact that with minimal
> protocols (HTTP and few others) and few up front agreements (HTML and
> others) the Web allowed anyone, anywhere to publish and create
> applications... Yes that leads to a plethora of duplicated data and
> semantics, but that's fine as, in the end, it also follows how humans
> naturally do things.
> Human civilizations has seen various repeated technologies and tools
> over centuries. The Chinese initially invented many technologies that
> the west re-invented later on... and now, vice a versa. Why would a
> wold-wide web be any different? If as humans we liked having one
> meaning and representation for domains, we would all speak English,
> Spanish, or Chinese. We don't and in many way this is a great thing
> with lots of benefits, while also creating various drawbacks.
> Now, this is not to say that the Web is perfect and that efforts to
> add semantics or making the Web more secure are not needed. It simply
> is a reminder that any mainstream changes on the Web needs to mesh
> with the core values and design choices that have made the Web a
> success. It's no wonder that REST has surpassed SOAP/WSDL for making
> the Web programmable. REST meshes perfectly with the Web's
> architecture; SOAP in many ways, simply does not...
> Ajith Ranabahu (PhD student at Wright State University) and I have a
> short paper that summarizes some of this thinking that we presented
> last year at ICSC (http://icsc2007.eecs.uci.edu/
). You can find a PDF
> here for your perusal:
> All in all, I think it's great that every now and then we are able to
> be pragmatic about things and realize our mistakes. I believe that
> this shows strength, confidence, and maturity. I believe many aspects
> and promises from Semantic Web technologies need a bit of that
> pragmatic reminder...
> Sincerely yours,
> E. Michael Maximilien (aka "max")
> IBM Research
> San Jose, CA USA
> On Tue, Aug 12, 2008 at 7:01 AM, John F. Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx