What led to the Semantics Part of HTML5 ?
Here’s a quick and incomplete timeline:
- 1968 – Internet used as a communications network by DOD
- 1989 – Tim Berners-Lee (and others) at CERN develop HTML from SGML
- Early 1990s – Web browsers created to interpret HTML
- 1996 – XML developed
- 1990s – Tim Berners-Lee & W3C continue to pursue development the Semantic Web
- 2011 – The year HTML5 was born
The Semantics Part of HTML5
A new form of Web content that is meaningful to computers will unleash a revolution of new possibilities…
The web of today remains largely unstructured and large chunks of data remains out of reach to machines, because they cannot get access to it and “understand” it.
The HTML5 Semantics part brings a richer set of tags, along with RDFa, microdata, and microformats, thus enabling even machines and programs to make sense of the data… Not only humans! For instance, there are new <author>, <article> and <address> tags (citing just 3), even though this can help from a design standpoint, the main goal such new tags is not the Esthetics but the Semantics!
Indeed thanks to such tags, even program can “understand” or at least clearly identify the different parts of the content.
The complete list of HTML5 tags can be found here: HTML5 Tag list
HTML5 Semantics will ultimately enable:
- The Improvement of Knowledge Management
- The Improvement of Information Retrieval (including much better Search Engines)
- The Easy Automation of Tasks
- And finally, enable machines to really make senses of the data and work wonders for us humans
Combined with the advancement in Artificial Intelligence, it can bring about a real revolution in machine intelligence that will change our lives in unimaginable ways. There will be such things as “Intelligent Semantic Web Agent”… Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web, say’s it best in his article “The Semantic Web” published in “Scientific American” on May 17th of 2001:
The real power of the Semantic Web will be realized when people create many programs that collect Web content from diverse sources, process the information and exchange the results with other programs.
The effectiveness of such software agents will increase exponentially as more machine-readable Web content and automated services (including other agents) become available. The Semantic Web promotes this synergy: even agents that were not expressly designed to work together can transfer data among themselves when the data come with semantics.
An important facet of agents’ functioning will be the exchange of “proofs” written in the Semantic Web’s unifying language (the language that expresses logical inferences made using rules and information such as those specified by ontologies). For example, suppose Ms. Cook’s contact information has been located by an online service, and to your great surprise it places her in Johannesburg. Naturally, you want to check this, so your computer asks the service for a proof of its answer, which it promptly provides by translating its internal reasoning into the Semantic Web’s unifying language. An inference engine in your computer readily verifies that this Ms. Cook indeed matches the one you were seeking, and it can show you the relevant Web pages if you still have doubts.
The Semantic Web will bring structure to the meaningful content of Web pages, creating an environment where software agents roaming from page to page can readily carry out sophisticated tasks for users.
Properly designed, the Semantic Web can assist the evolution of human knowledge as a whole.
So as Tim Berners-Lee says so well in his 2001 article (before HTML5 was ever conceived) the semantic web has the power to advance “human knowledge as a whole” !
This is how important this new Semantic Web capability that HTML5 brings us is.
This article is always a work in progress, so if you have any suggestions, leave a comment or send me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!