Signal: The Long Tail

The central problem of the internet today is the relative lack of organization of the massive store of information which already exists, and is continually being generated at rapid rates. With the diversity of personal interests, one persons signal is another ones noise, so finding and keeping track of what you’re interested in becomes an ongoing, repetitive, manual task. The semantic web holds the promise to build a to a living, input-output, web scale topology composed of a hierarchy of topics and relations interwoven through the current silo based system of sites, portals, and files, which have non-uniform systems of organization. This will allow users to easily and finely tune in to the long tail of knowledge and find content with low friction and high precision.

Delivery: From Pull to Push

The current pull model of actively surfing for content using parse-centric search engines will be heavily displaced by a push model in which users passively receive key descriptive metadata about and links to content tightly based on a users subscribed topics of interest, including people, places, events, products, etc. These personalized semantic streams (somewhat like Facebook’s Newsfeed) will aggregate from all over the web, and will become the primary mode of finding and sharing content.

Trust: Patterns of Agreement

Semantic systems will work best when closely paired with intelligent (and ideally, distributed) trust systems, which will accumulate the votes of users with real, cross-vetted identities, about the accuracy and relevance of links between units of data in the semantic topology, in order to derive areas of consensus. These votes will allow for a dynamic recommendation system, effectively turning users into automatic content filters for each other by measuring their aggregate patterns of agreement (or lack thereof). Such systems are already becoming feasible with the emergence of social platforms (ie: Facebook, Open Social, Plaxo, Ning) and open authentication standards (ie: OpenID, OAuth), which can serve as identity hubs to be layered on top of.

Impact: The Feedback Loop

Good information allows for good decisions. Semantic metadata will increasingly create a focused, directed, and personalized flow of information gathered from a distributed network of minds. As this happens, information can be found more quickly and with less friction by more people, and so, allow them to respond faster, more effectively, and in new ways, both individually or collectively. This tightening of the feedback loop will accelerate change (or at least the potential for change) much in the same way that the mainstreaming of the internet itself had on society by opening up new venues and channels for information and interaction. The semantic web represents another such quantum leap, and its impact will be global, multifaceted, and powerful.