The meaningful Web

Nova Spivack at Minding the Planet has published a thoughtful post on the meaning and future of the semantic web. The semantic web

is a set of technologies which are designed toenable a particular vision for the future of the Web – a future in which all knowledge exists on the Web in a format that software applications can understand and reason about.’s Semantic Web is about facilitating what humans do – it is about helping humans do things more intelligently. It’s not a vision in which humans do nothing and software does everything.

Wikipedia has this definition of Semantic Web, a term that must related, perhaps is a parent to, spime.

It's a daunting challenge and there is no question that the Web will become more intelligent, though just how intelligent is vigorously debated. Clay Shirky, for example, argues in this 2003 article that sense - semantics - does not follow syntax, that how we derive meaning is not necessarily connected to the words we use.

Spivack followed the post linked above with several others, notably reaction to the recent New York Times piece (free registration required), which appears to set the intelligence bar somewhat lower:

the Holy Grail for developers of the semantic Web is to build a system that can give a reasonable and complete response to a simple question like: “I’m looking for a warm place to vacation and I have a budget of $3,000. Oh, and I have an 11-year-old child.”

Here's hoping that software can simplify digital life.