RDF in Drupal: Benefits to Casual Web Surfers

Published June 16, 2009

Even if you're not ready to implement RDF into your Drupal site, there's still a number of reasons why you should be excited about the Semantic Web. The fact that data will be linked from web site to web site (regardless of the underlying technology running the site) will lead to powerful Semantic Web applications - most of which haven't even been imagined yet.

First and foremost, search will be revolutionized. Imagine being able to search for a specific person - not just the person's name. This is a subtle but important distinction. Currently, when you type "Dave Matthews" into your favorite search engine, the results you see are based on the words "Dave" and "Matthews". You'll see results about Dave Matthews, about people with the name "Dave" and/or "Matthews", about the orgin of the words "Dave" and "Matthews", etc... The search engine doesn't know that you're looking for a specific person with the name "Dave Matthews". With the Semantic Web, you'll be able to specify, "find me the person with the name 'Dave Matthews'". You'll even be able to perform "deeper" searches by specifying things like "find me all events having to do with Drupal taking place between now and July".

Other than search, the Semantic Web will also provide you with the ability to do stuff with this data. For example, let's say you perform the Drupal events search from the previous paragraph and you're looking at the results. Because the data returned will have meta-data attached to it, future software tools will allow you to click on a returned event, and see if you're available on that date and time. If so, another click will seamlessly add it to your calendar. If you're familiar with Mac OS X, it's like data detectors on steriods. Really good steriods.

Another future use for the Semantic Web that will no doubt be huge is that it has the potential to turn the entire web into a social network - owned and operated by all of us. The Friend of a Friend project (FOAF) is an RDF vocabulary that describes people and relationships between them. By implementing FOAF on existing web site, you can indicate relationships between your users. These relationships can then be combined with other relationships on other sites to produce a social network.

While most of the whiz-bang capabilities described here have not yet come to pass just yet - they all have one thing in common - they require that web sites start implementing RDF now. Lots of large sites have done so, and more are being added every day. One of the more well-known sites that has begun implementing RDF is Digg.com. They are using the Dublin Core vocabulary for content attribution (additional details).

The Data Portability Project is an industry initiative "To help people to use and protect the data they create on networked services, and to advocate for compliance with the values of DataPortability." If you have any doubt about the future of the Semantic Web, some of their members include Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and LinkedIn.

This is part 2 in a 5 part series about RDF and Drupal.

  1. RDF in Drupal: What is it and Why Should We Care?
  2. RDF in Drupal: Benefits to Casual Web Surfers
  3. RDF in Drupal: Super-Simple Primer
  4. RDF in Drupal: What can I do now? Drupal 6 and the Semantic Web
  5. RDF in Drupal: The Future - RDF in Drupal 7


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