A Web of Applications

Discussion of ‘the Semantic Web’ and ‘Web Services’ rarely dies down, but it seems like there’s been more than usual of late. As analysts yet again predict that this year will the “The Year of Web Services” more people are beginning to agree that such hype isn’t making any real impact on the use of service-based architectures.

One of the better comments of late is Danny Ayers’ call to start seeing web applications as “features of the web” rather than standalone entities. The Semantic Web will never evolve if we merely see web services as ways to escape writing certain pieces of code ourselves; we need instead to be trying to grasp at how the whole might work.

As my previous post indicated, I’m working on some ideas for some local websites designed to develop community and support local businesses. While there’s certainly a need for distinct interfaces to the data–to enable people to focus on their particular interests, or so that multiple organizations can have a sense of ownership–each interface will be considerably enhanced if the sites are geographically aware and interoperable.

If, for instance, I am going to a concert downtown I’d like to know what other events are happening nearby or where to eat. Rather than having to go and perform extra searches elsewhere, it would be useful if the site presented me with some of that information. And rather than having to have one organization keep track of all the information, it would be far better to have everything provided in a machine digestible format, with the different sites querying one another (either on-demand or regularly) and a simple way of plugging in other information sources.

That’s why Grand Rapids WiFi is now publishing as much data as possible in RDF/XML, and other sites will do likewise. I suspect that the development of the web as a platform will follow a similar route to the adoption of standards-based design: more and more of us started migrating/building our small sites that way, pressure built and suddenly the big guys were getting in on the act. To be honest, I can’t remember whether the analysts were in on that act, but I also can’t remember that mattering most of the time.

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