In putting together the talk I think I understand my own view of SW a little better which is that the exciting thing is ubiquitous access to lots of useful data. The question of semantics keeps creeping in and while it’s important to be able to make inferences and use shared vocabularies, I’m not entirely convinced that there is any need for ‘real semantics’ to make interesting applications work. We need shared terminology and schema for sure, but there’s no more semantics there than when I use an XML schema to allow me to interoperate with others.
The big vision of autonomous agents crawling the web exchanging proofs and doing serious stuff for us will obviously face bigger problems than the vertical applications that can use agreed vocabularies. This is more like traditional AI applications and will obviously need some more knowledge representation which can be called semantics. However, I feel that all sorts of interesting things can be done without going this deep. Just look at what has become possible with RSS in the past few years; it’s the ubiquity of the data that makes things possible and without the ubiquitous data it’s hard to imagine the applications.
So, let’s continue the grass roots effort to populate the world with snippets of RDF metadata about anything that seems interesting. Get yourself a FOAF file, publish some RSS, add metadata to your photographs, publish your calendar. Now ponder what to do with all this glorious data!