Now I've blogged before about the "semantic" web not really being semantic for web services but I've been thinking even more about the problem that the semantic web with its descriptions of information tries to solve and I'm really not convinced that from a business scenario this is something for anyone to be worrying about today. Sure the concept of "automatic" consumption and transformation sounds beguiling at first, but isn't this pretty much the same vision that was promoted around UDDI at the start for Web Services?
What I mean here is that the thing that this tries to solve is people's understanding of information and automate that process. From some reviews I've done recently, and a conference or two I've attended, the accuracy of these transformations are still pretty ropey and are more about helping people at design time than being something you would rely on in a production runtime.
So really here we have a way of adding "hints" in to people about what a given field means so it can help them understand what it maps to and maybe make a suggestion that might, or might not, be accepted. But is RDF/OWL and the like really the way to go about this? Or should we think more in terms of the sort of free form association that Google gives us? What I mean here is think about the way Google maps works "Hotels near London" where it looks for the term "hotel" and a geo location that is around London (another inference), in effect they create a semantic tree for those terms based on the probability that this is what you meant.Now I've never used an RDF file to help me describe "Hotel" or "London" to Google, I'm just relying on it having built up a contextual reference that means it takes a good guess at the answer.
So are RDF and OWL really required? Or is the solution to have a Google contextual search?