“There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new order of things…. Whenever his enemies have the ability to attack the innovator, they do so with the passion of partisans, while the others defend him sluggishly, so that the innovator and his party alike are vulnerable.”
–Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (1513)

Atlanta's flying car laneIn case you missed it, a series of recent articles have made a Big Announcement:

The Semantic Web is not here yet.

Additionally, neither are flying cars, the cure for cancer, humans traveling to Mars or a bunch of other futuristic ideas that still have merit.

A problem with many of these articles is that they conflate the Vision of the Semantic Web with the practical technologies associated with the standards. While the Whole Enchilada has yet to emerge (and may never do so), the individual technologies are finding their way into ever more systems in a wide variety of industries. These are not all necessarily on the public Web, they are simply Webs of Data. There are plenty of examples of this happening and I won’t reiterate them here.

Instead, I want to highlight some other things that are going on in this discussion that are largely left out of these narrowly-focused, provocative articles.

First, the Semantic Web has a name attached to its vision and it has for quite some time. As such, it is easy to remember and it is easy to remember that it Hasn’t Gotten Here Yet. Every year or so, we have another round of articles that are more about cursing the darkness than lighting candles.

In that same timeframe, however, we’ve seen the ascent and burn out failure of Service-Oriented Architectures (SOA), Enterprise Service Buses (ESBs), various MVC frameworks, server side architectures, etc. Everyone likes to announce $20 million sales of an ESB to clients. No one generally reports on the $100 million write-downs on failed initiatives when they surface in annual reports a few years later. So we are left with a skewed perspective on the efficacy of these big “conventional” initiatives.

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