Dr. Google: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Semantic Web

Let’s face it, thinking is hard work. A quick Google search tells me the average person makes 35,000 decisions EVERY DAY. Brown shoes, or black? Stairs or elevator? Sandwich or taco? That’s a lot of thinkin’. We need all the help we can get, and the semantic web is ready and willing to step in and take over.

The semantic web seeks to make our lives easier by customizing how it delivers the information we seek. Google is getting smarter. So are cousins Siri, Alexa and the rest of the semantic web family. They do things without us asking, like reminding us where we parked or telling us how long it will take to get to work. The semantic web can use our past behavior to predict what we will need before we have to ask for it.

The semantic web also uses context to refine how it helps its users find information. It no longer reads the words in a search request as individual data points but reads how the words are put together to determine meaning. Remember the early days of search engines? You might be trying to identify a species of frog with red eyes, and the results would be about frogs, the color red, the anatomy of the eye, the anatomy of red eyes, or red frogs, or frog eyes? The search saw those keywords as individual elements, instead of part of a whole. The semantic web reads the meaning of those words together, understands their context, and rewards us with a more focused search result.

The advantage is a more efficient web experience. “My phone knows me so well, it can finish my sentences.” There are concerns about that familiarity, though, many of them dealing with security and privacy. Amazon has admitted that its Echo and Dot devices are always listening, but to help improve the customer service experience. That’s great, if we trust Amazon to only hire employees with the best of intentions in every situation. One wrong hire, and this whole thing could go sideways.

The semantic web is revolutionary, and has changed the relationship I have with my phone. I just don’t want my phone knowing that much about me.