2012: The Year of the Semantic Web -- Revisited!

Six months after blogging that 2012 would be the Year of the Semantic Web, I am now sharing some recent events that are indeed suggesting this prediction to be true. The Semantic Web was initially envisioned in a 2001 article in Scientific American, and is now defined by a set of standards maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and several implementations in myriad industries ranging from life sciences to financial services and several public and private market segments in between. However, the following 2012 events suggest this is the year that semantic technologies become main-stream: a semantic technology based offering from Google, acquisitions of semantic technology companies, and significant activity in the semantic technology standards organizations.

A Quantitative Cycle of Creativity

Google recently launched the Google Knowledge Graph to enhance search results. The Google Knowledge Graph started with Google's 2010 acquisition of Metaweb, which were the creators of the Resource Description Framework (RDF)-backed Freebase. From 2010 to the Google Knowledge Graph release last month, Google grew the Freebase database of interconnected entities and attributes from approximately 12 million to over 200 million, and they have plans to continue growing it. When asked how much content Google plans to extend the Knowledge Graph to support, Amit Singhal, Google Fellow and Senior Vice President, laughed and stated, "The beauty of the human mind is that it can build things and decide things in ways we didn't think were possible, and I think the best answer I can give right now is that the human mind would keep creating knowledge and I see what we're building in our knowledge graph as a tool to aid the creation of more knowledge. It's an endless quantitative cycle of creativity." The Google Knowledge Graph represents a significant advancement towards the implementation of the Semantic Web vision detailed in the 2001 article.

The Year of the Acquisition

This year has already seen multiple, substantial acquisitions in the semantic technology community. Just last week, Bloomberg LP announced its acquisition of PolarLake, a leader in reference data management, to help it launch an enterprise data management (EDM) service. Thomas Secunda, Bloomberg's Cofounder and Global Head of Financial Products and Services, explained that the PolarLake purchase is a "strong signal to the marketplace that Bloomberg intends to be a leader in the enterprise data management business". PolarLake's success as a reference data management leader is partially attributed to its implementation of semantic technologies that enable customers to own and upgrade their data models and enterprise systems dependent on those models. PolarLake also provided the industry's first Reference Data Enterprise Search solution earlier this year, based on semantic search concepts. PolarLake's CEO, John Randles, stated "As data volumes explode and regulations across historic and current data become more and more pronounced, search will be the killer app for Reference Data Management."

Another relevant 2012 acquisition to discuss here is the acquisition of Peer39 by DG, the digital media services provider. Peer39 uses semantic technologies to deliver highly precise matching of online advertising and web page content. DG CEO, Neil Nguyen, commented "The Peer39 solution complements existing data-driven solutions offered by MediaMind, strengthening our offering to the RTB [real-time bidding] trading market." Within this same market segment, AppNexus and Crystal Semantics announced a partnership in 2012. The collaboration affords Crystal Semantics to render multilingual, semantic-based solutions to the AppNexus platform.

Yet another acquisition in 2012 is Experian's acquisition of Garlik, which cleared in March, but was announced in December 2011. Garlik uses semantic technologies to address identity theft and financial fraud. The acquisition appears key to Experian's strategic goal to be the most trusted provider of credit monitoring and identity protection services.

Activity Within Standards Organizations

Organizations adopt semantic technologies, among other reasons, for the standards-based foundation. So it's important to consider relevant standards organization activities in 2012 as part of our conversation about the explosion of semantic technologies this year. Although there have been several important activities, the two most significant are the W3C announcement of an industry-led Linked Data Platform Working Group (LDPWG) and the adoption of schema.org within the semantic technology community. The LDPWG charter focuses its efforts on establishing standards and development patterns for integrating RDF with Representational State Transfer (REST), the predominant industry de-facto standard architectural approach for distributed systems based on Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). These standards and patterns will promote growth of enterprise integration efforts using semantic technologies. The working group currently consists of industry leaders, such as IBM, which have expertise in both REST and RDF.

Although schema.org was actually chartered last year, 2012 has seen significant activity in vendor support for the initiative in the semantic technology community. Schema.org was created in June 2011 by Microsoft, Google and Yahoo to provide standard markup for web page metadata. Yandex joined the party a few months later. Schema.org provided both RDF and Web Ontology Language (OWL) formats. Recent activities have extended the use and support of semantic technologies within the schema.org community.

2012 and Beyond

These are just a few of the events this year that support my earlier prediction on why 2012 would be the year of the Semantic Web. A semantic technology vendor also upstaged the BioIT world this year to win the coveted Best in Show award at the BioIT World Conference. If you want to learn more about the growing semantic technology community, join me at the Semantic Technology & Business Conference in San Francisco June 3 - 9, 2012. The semantic technology startup of the year will be announced at this conference. Who knows, maybe that startup will be yet another reason that 2012 is the year of the Semantic Web.