Who, What, When, Where: The Semantic Web is Alive and Well (and on Facebook)August 30th, 2010 by naaman
I have killed the semantic web before (at least in my provocative title), but pointed out that the future of semantics are light-weight semantics created by programmers, users or individual companies. And here it comes: the future of the Semantic Web (and by that I also mean the Web, the life and the Universe) is now owned by Facebook.
A recent Yahoo! patent, dug up by SEO by the Sea reminded me of the work I’ve been involved with at Yahoo!, driven by the vision of Marc Davis: being able to semantically connect the four most important dimensions of Web objects, Who, What, When and Where, directly to the user experience on Yahoo!. But while Yahoo! dragged its feet, Facebook is making real steps to becoming the true W4 platform for the Web. The identity (Who) war at least seems to have been won, at least for the time being; for most people, the real identity on the Web is the one they expose on Facebook. Controlling the Who has immediate consequence (e.g., de-facto communication platform for people trying to reach contacts), but had also allowed Facebook to expand into the When (Events), What (Pages) and now Where (Places). And as I am doing the linking here, I notice the Facebook title for the Places page — interesting…
In other words, the Facebook W4 network allows people to connect their experiences to well-defined concepts that “live” in the Facebook objectverse. This is one of Facebook’s greatest successes, and greatest leverage going forward.
Going forward means allowing other developers and companies to build on the Facebook W4 semantics. Yahoo! only partially succeeded in doing that with “Where”, using the Yahoo! Geo platform. Facebook now allows Websites and applications to connect via the Who (Facebook identity). Increasingly, Facebook will increase the usefulness of there “What” and “When” for other applications. The Places feature, cleverly, was already launched with integration of various companies (e.g., FourSquare) that can use the Facebook Places platform. There is no reason why this platform will soon be open (and used) by many other developers, giving Facebook ownership of Who and Where on the Web.
And where is Twitter? With the less specific “annotation” feature, and lagging behind in the Who space, Twitter is struggling in the objectverse, despite a strong geo-bend and a major push last year.