Hey, Marty, would you mind parking the DeLorean for me while I finish up this blog post? Thanks.
Hi, everyone! I've just come back from the future. Well, not really. I've actually just been reading through a bunch of articles about the Semantic Web as envisioned by Tim Berners-Lee and other brilliant thinkers. My appetite to research this topic was spurred by this article I read about two weeks ago. It's been a fun escape into the world-of-tomorrow. Some have already assigned the moniker "Web 3.0" to the Semantic Web. Here we go again...
So did I find anything of value on my futuristic escapade? Well, I started my trip (as always) by going to see The Oracle to find out what she thinks of the Semantic Web. It's still unclear to me how people will interact with such a system—from what I can tell there are no consumer apps yet that handle these types of semantic web interactions. But according to the Wikipedia article, computers will do most of the menial pairing of search results that we currently do manually.
Funny enough, there are many who believe that this particular vision of the future cannot come to fruition. Others say it has already begun to happen. I don't know enough about it yet to base an opinion either way, but I do see elements of a semantic web in now widely used web techniques like tagging.
According to Tim Berners-Lee, Google will not survive on the semantic web—at least not in its current state. Yahoo even recently announced that they will begin supporting certain semantic web standards and technologies to let people produce much richer search results.
So if search engines as we know them need to change at the advent of this new Semantic Web, do SEOers need to follow suit? Will SEO become the task of simply building properly formatted semantic markup for digestion by future search engines? That could be part of it. In fact, part of good SEO practices now include creation of semantic based data feeds (think RSS). And now with the birth of Yahoo's open search, website owners will be rewarded for producing more semantic data and suppling it to Yahoo. I expect Google has something similar in the works.
But how far out is our paradigm shift? How quickly will the bandwagon pass? Is there a bandwagon at all? The more you think about it, the more you think, "wow, this Web 3.0 is going to be pretty cool! It'll make SEO and search in general a lot cleaner". As I began to ponder all of these new ideas, The Oracle sent me to this other article. Stopped in my tracks.
Mr. Doctorow is right on. One of the huge problems Google et al currently face is the overabundance of garbage on the web. This must be what Berners-Lee meant in part when he said, "...make sure people aren't using their authority to do things that they shouldn't be doing". Unfortunately, that's much easier said than done. There will always be people who are trying to game the system. Website owners of the future will be creating oodles of inaccurate meta-data about their spam sites to trick your computer into pulling bogus information into your data mash-up. Can you imagine searching for a good Italian restaurant near the place you have a meeting tomorrow at noon and you're given a map full of bogus locations all advertising male enhancement pills. No thanks.
Let's get back to the original question quickly: does SEO die on the semantic web? I think the answer is a resounding no. In fact, an understanding of keywords, search engines, markup, and semantics will play an even bigger role as time goes on. But who knows what the real future will bring.
Alright, I'm outta here. Where I'm going I don't need—roads. But I do need to add some quick semantic metadata to this post before signing off (*throws in another old can and a banana peel*). OK, I'm off!