|Many people are talking about that piece of news (Google exec challenges Berners-Lee): some will say that Tim is right; other will say that Peter is right. No one is right or not, everything depends on your situation in that environment (created by the Semantic Web).|
Everybody knows Tim Berners-Lee, but everybody should also know that Peter Norvig is not a second class citizen. He wrote, with Stuart Russel, probably the best and most comprehensive book in the field of Artificial Intelligence, he is the director of research at Google, etc.
The best blog post I read about that subject, and that resumes really well my point of view, is the one wrote by Danny Ayers: Incompetents Revolt!
As reported by the CNet article:
“What I get a lot is: ‘Why are you against the Semantic Web?’ I am not against the Semantic Web. But from Google’s point of view, there are a few things you need to overcome, incompetence being the first,” Norvig said. Norvig clarified that it was not Berners-Lee or his group that he was referring to as incompetent, but the general user. [...] We deal with millions of Web masters who can’t configure a server, can’t write HTML. It’s hard for them to go to the next step.”
Most of the thing I read vis-à-vis that declaration was talking about the “incompetence of users toward Semantic Web technologies”. However, I think that the most important point here is that Peter takes the time to say: as the director of research at Google, a Billionaire Company, I have some reserve vis-à-vis the Semantic Web.
Google have some reserver vis-à-vis it, but why? For technical considerations? For business vision? Anything else? I don’t know, and they probably don’t know either. Everybody fears the unknown. Why Google wouldn’t? They are, and they are probably because they can’t grasp what is at sake with their company, just like everybody else in the World.
“The second problem is competition. Some commercial providers say, ‘I’m the leader. Why should I standardize?’ The third problem is one of deception. We deal every day with people who try to rank higher in the results and then try to sell someone Viagra when that’s not what they are looking for. With less human oversight with the Semantic Web, we are worried about it being easier to be deceptive,” Norvig said.
“Competition and standardization – yes, certainly issues for the Web. But the companies that thrive in this environment tend to be the ones that embrace open standards. The fact is that the rest of the world is likely to be bigger than any leader. Respect the long tail.”
Hell yes he is right! If I put myself in the skin of any shopkeeper, restaurant owner, etc, do I want that people have a semantic access to my information [in these cases: price of merchandise, delivery procedures, etc]? Hell yes I want! However, if I put myself in the skin of a Google exec, do I want? I am not certainly sure that I want… give me sometime please, so I’ll be able to rework my business plan accordingly.
Later Tim said in answer to Peter:
“Berners-Lee agreed with Norvig that deception on the Internet is a problem, but he argued that part of the Semantic Web is about identifying the originator of information, and identifying why the information can be trusted, not just the content of the information itself.”
|Yesterday I wrote on the SIOC Google Group “that I don’t think that the semweb will be crawled as Google crawl current websites. I think that the first step will be to use semweb technologies to let web services interact together with trusted sources of information. From there, network of trusted sources will emerge, etc, etc etc.|
I think that people tend to forgot all the “trust” layer of the semweb when they talk about tricking semweb agents or search engines (in fact, trusts relationships will be explicit or inferred). Think about memetrackers like techmeme.com. The system started with a list of trusted bloggers and news sites, and expended its list by adding trusted sources from them, etc.
But noturally, once more, Danny’s writing summarize the whole point much better:
But anyhow, is Norvig really suggesting that Google are currently solving deception issues via human oversight? Whatever, proof and trust are key considerations for Semantic Web systems. The foundations are built into the theory, logic provides one route to addressing the issues. Even if that formalism is ignored and statistical approaches taken, the use of common languages makes data more amenable to analysis. Probabilities and uncertainties can be expressed as logical statements on top of the base languages. However you approach it, the answer is mo’ better data, not less.
Finally, it is not good or bad; it only depends on your position in the environment such a Web would create. I think we inevitably go in that direction, the only thing is that some people will need more time than other.