One of Semantic Web’s Core Added Value

If I ask the question: “What added value(s) does the Semantic Web brings on the table?”. So, what are the benefits that companies and organizations would get from using the Semantic Web? I am pretty sure that after asking this question, I would get answers such as:
  • You will instantly be able to traverse graphs of relationships
  • You will be able to infer facts (so create/persist new knowledge) from other existing facts
  • You will be able to check to make sure that your knowledge base is consistent and satisfiable
  • You will be able to modify your ontologies/vocabularies/schemas without impacting the description of your instance records or the usability of any software that use it (unlike relation databases)
  • And so on…

All these answers would be accurate. However, what if these answers would only be a part of the real added value that the Semantic Web brings on the table?

Note: when I refer to the “Semantic Web” on this blog post (and across all my writings), I refer to a set of technologies, techniques and concepts referred as the Semantic Web. So it is not a single thing, but a complete set of things that creates new ways of working with, and manipulating, information.

Strong of about 7 years of research and development of Semantic Web technologies that includes about 3 years of developing the Open Semantic Framework, that the biggest added value that I found from utilizing Semantic Web technologies is only partially related to these answers. In fact the biggest added value for me, as a developer can be resumed in one word:


As simple as this. The biggest added value I gained from using and applying Semantic Web related technologies, techniques and concepts is an important increase in development, and data integration productivity.

Such productivity gain as to do with one of Semantic Web’s core attribute:


This is what I was suggesting in my latest blog post about Volkswagen’s use of the Open Semantic Framework: how Volkswagen uses the Open Semantic Framework to get flexibility that will lead to a gain in productivity to integrate, publish, and re-contextualize their data assets. The few gains that I listed above are part of the reason why the Semantic Web gives you flexibility that leads to an increase in productivity.

This same point as been re-affirmed today by Lee Feigenbaum in its latest blog post Saving Months, Not Milliseconds: Do More Faster with the Semantic Web:

Why is this? Ultimately, it’s because of the inherent flexibility of the Semantic Web data model (RDF). This flexibility has been described in many different ways. RDF relies on an adaptive, resilient schema (from Mike Bergman); it enables cooperation without coordination (from David Wood via Kendall Clark); it can be incrementally evolved; changes to one part of a system don’t require re-designs to the rest of the system. These are all dimensions of the same core flexibility of Semantic Web technologies, and it is this flexibility that lets you do things fast with the Semantic Web.

Warning: Productivity is not synonymous with simplicity

However, I would warn people that think that productivity gains are possible because semantic web technologies are simpler to use, manage and implement than other existing technologies.

It is certainly not the case, and I don’t think it will ever be. Semantic Web technologies, techniques and concepts are not easy to understand, and have a big learning curve. This is partly true because these techniques, technologies and concepts are relatively new in the field of the computer sciences, and because they are not fully understood, defined, implemented and used.