In light of the news that Talis Systems is suspending it’s investment in a generic semantic web platform and it’s semantic web consulting business, I wanted to explore why I think you shouldn’t draw gloomy conclusions for Linked Data and the web of data.
But first a short aside to illustrate what I think is one of the core differences between a graph based approach and a relational database approach to building applications.
When you try and think about data as anything other than describing the way the world looks and works, you have to make compromises in your view of the way the world looks and works. The biggest compromise trap you will likely fall into is making the assumption that everything that you don’t know about doesn’t exist so therefore cannot be true.
Faced with such a closed outlook on life you are going to find it really difficult to react to challenges that force you to accept that your closed world is a bit bigger than you thought it was. One of those difficulties is deciding whether to live with the status quo, or spend time and effort re-writing software to make use of this newly extended view of the world.
So don’t do that.
The core concepts of Linked Data and the web of data allow you to build a view of your world, described by your data, which your applications can then feed off. Your applications become either parasitic or symbiotic depending on whether they are purely consuming data or consuming the data to generate some new insight which is fed back into the system as new data.
Because one of the assumptions of Linked Data is that there is other stuff that you don’t know about, you have to build you applications to also assume that there is stuff that it doesn’t know. Your application can become more aware of the types of data it is dealing with, and recognise data patterns that it knows how to display or work with. This is a more organic way of designing applications that to my mind feels more natural.
This is just one of the ways in which organisations like Talis have changed the way they build software. So just because the economics didn’t work out for Talis in building a generic semantic web solution, it doesn’t mean that the learnings we have made over the last few years don’t apply to your specific problem area.