The Semantic Web identity crisis: in search of the trivialities that never were

Tracking #: 2227-3440

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Ruben Verborgh
Miel Vander Sande

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Guest Editor 10-years SWJ

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For a domain with a strong focus on unambiguous identifiers and meaning, the Semantic Web research field itself has a surprisingly ill-defined sense of identity. Started at the end of the 1990s at the intersection of databases, logic, and Web, and influenced along the way by all major tech hypes such as Big Data and machine learning, our research community needs to look in the mirror to understand who we really are. The key question amid all possible directions is pinpointing the important challenges we are uniquely positioned to tackle. In this article, we highlight the community’s unconscious bias toward addressing the Paretonian 80% of problems through research—handwavingly assuming that trivial engineering can solve the remaining 20%. In reality, that overlooked 20% could actually require 80% of the total effort and involve significantly more research than we are inclined to think, because our theoretical experimentation environments are vastly different from the open Web. As it turns out, these formerly neglected “trivialities” might very well harbor those research opportunities that only our community can seize, thereby giving us a clear hint of how we can orient ourselves to maximize our impact on the future.
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