Interview with Juan Sequeda: "I believe Linked Data will enable new killer apps that are only possible thanks to Linked Data."
Juan Sequeda, co-chair of the Triplification Challenge 2010 and one of the core figures in the Linked Data movement, gives us his view how the Semantic Web might evolve. His central message: “Once there is an incentive to create quality links, these links will start to show up. And then users will start linking to the data hubs of their interest.”
Linked Data itself has grabbed a lot of attention inside the Semantic Web community recently. But what about the outside perspective? Could linked data be called the killer app for the Semantic Web?
I foresee two things happening with Linked Data. One is from the web development perspective (the so-called Web 2.0 developers) and the other is from the enterprise perspective. The web development community will sooner than later realize that Linked Data will enable easy integration of data and therefore will ease the pain of consuming data from different data sources. Thanks to big organizations such as BBC, New York Times, Reuters, Best Buy, etc. web developers will start paying attention to this “new thing” called Linked Data.
What we need is that the inside Semantic Web community starts to create applications on top of current Linked Data so when the outside web development community starts to pay attention, they have something to chew on. We (the semantic web community) needs to start speaking the web development language. There is still a big gap. I have had personal experiences with people in the web development community who think that RDF is XML and because they hate XML, they will never consider it. This is false and this is something that we need to change.
From the enterprise perspective, Linked Data is another data integration solution. Data integration has been a problem since day one of relational databases. I believe enterprises will be open to consider new solutions with new technologies. I’m hoping to see new startups tackling the enterprise domain. Imagine being able to query “get all my clients from cities whose population is greater than 1 million” even though I don’t have the data about population of cities in my database.
Is Linked Data the killer app for the Semantic Web? Before I answer that, I would like to ask, what was the killer app of the Web? Was it the browser? Was it e-commerce? Was it search? Was it Amazon or Ebay or Google? I believe Linked Data will enable new killer apps, apps that are only possible thanks to Linked Data. The browser was only possible because of HTML. So let’s ask ourselves what is possible because of Linked Data, and there we will find our killer app.
One of the core deficiencies of the young open data cloud is the little amount of interlinks between datasets. Is it just a matter of time to overcome this or are there other measures needed to turn the existing datasets into a true giant global graph?
I like to remind myself that this new wave of semantic web technologies is an extension of the current web. Therefore we should analyze how the web evolved in the beginning. Initially, everything were a bunch of documents on the web in which people manually created links to other documents. When Google started, it created an incentive to offer quality links between documents. This also created data hubs. If you write a blog post about a book, most probably you will link to the web document of that book either on Amazon and/or Wikipedia. I believe that this will happen with Linked Data. Once there is an incentive to create quality links, these links will start to show up. And then users will start linking to the data hubs of their interest.
Open Governmental Data is a big issue at the moment. The US and UK government have started to apply Linked Data principles to turn this vision into reality. Lots of other countries are following. What do you expect from this trend?
I believe that Linked Data will take off thanks to the initiative of governments. We always talk about the chicken and egg problem of the semantic web. Once we have organizations that don’t even think about it and are just interested in putting their data on the web, the semantic web will start to grow. If Bookstore ABC puts their data on the web, it may not be so meaningful. But if the US and UK government puts their data on the web, following the Linked Data principles, then people can wake up and say “ok, so this is for real. Let me start paying attention to this”.
You are one of the chairs of the Triplification Challenge 2010. Can you give us a brief insight what to expect from this year’s challenge? What are the conditions to participate?
The Triplification Challenge this year has grown and is very exciting. For the first time, it is offering two different tracks.
The first track, the Open Track will accept submissions on three areas 1) new datasets that are published following the Linked Data principles and that show potential benefit, 2) generic methods, mechanisms and approaches of creating Linked Data from legacy datasets and 3) applications that make use of Linked Data.
The second track is the New York Times track which will accept submissions of applications that make use of the New York Times Linked Data and one or more government dataset. The objective is to create an application powered by Linked Data that would be of interest to any constituent of that government.
I personally believe that the year 2010 is the year of creating Linked Data applications and the Triplification Challenge is the way to be part of it.