A lot of activities around Linking Open Data (“LOD”) and the associated data sets which are nicely visualised as a “cloud” are going on for quite a while now. It is exciting to see how the rather academic “Semantic Web” and all the work which is associated with this disruptive technology can be transformed now into real business use cases.
What I have observed in the last few months, especially in business communities, is the following:
“Linked Data” sounds interesting for the business people because the phrase creates a lot of associations in a second or two; also the database crowd seems to be attracted by this web-based approach of data integration
“Web of Data” is somehow misleading because many people think that this will be a new web which replaces something else. Same story with the “Semantic Web”
“Linking Open Data” sounds dangerous and not trustworthy to many companies
For insiders it is clear, that the “openness” of data, especially in commercial settings, can be controlled and has to be controlled in many cases i.e. by defining the right licensing models. But here we are still at the beginning as a workshop at ISWC 2009 has illustrated.
Anyway, looking at the characteristics of Linked Data Flows, they can be one-way or mutual. In some cases data from companies will be put into the cloud, and can be opened up for many purposes, in other use cases it will stay inside the boundaries. In other scenarios only (open) data from the web will be consumed and linked with corporate data, but no data will be exposed to the world (except the fact, that data was consumed by an entity).
And of course: On many other occasions datasets and repositories will be opened up partly depending on the CCs (or similar, not yet defined attributes) and the underlying privacy regulations one wants to use.
This makes clear that LOD / Linking Open Data is just one detail of a bigger picture. Since companies (and governments) play a crucial role to develop the whole infrastructure, we need to draw a new picture that illustrates the various Linked Data Flows in a better way:
Concluding from this the best thing would be to talk about Linked Data in general and just refer to Linking Open Data in the right context. Despite better knowledge for business people the term “open” is still associated with “free” and “dubious provenance”. And given the fact that hardly anybody has given hard evidence on the ROI of open business models the “open argument” does count little in a time of decreasing economic prosperity.
So what would be critical to get the Linked Data thing running is to provide the corresponding business and licensing models for your Linked Data strategy. But this includes having a good understanding of the assets you want to capitalize. Given the fact that metada assets are still a novel and vastly unexplored business field which so far lack a regulated supply and demand structure there are still lots of structural obstacles that hinder the uptake of Linked Data. Providing more of the same in a laissez faire mode – like TimBL critisized at this year’s Web 2.0 Summit – might be inspiring for the in-crowd, but it might not be sufficient to build a linked data business.