Linked Data – The Key to the Semantic Web

Updated February 28, 2011

Doc Sheldon

Linked Data is another brainchild of Sir Tim Berners-Lee. You may remember him… the unfortunate fellow that thought he had invented something worthwhile, that sadly never quite took off… something called the “World Wide Web”?

Okay, it kinda took off… in a small way. At least the poor fellow found a job… he’s Director of W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). 😉

TimBL makes the critical distinction between documents and data. In a nutshell, documents are things you and I can read, while data is the stuff that can be read by machines, and understood.

So now he is once again requesting something of the Internet community. Folks responded remarkably well to his first request, to adopt html and put documents up on the ‘Net. Now he’s asking us to put up data. That means data that is uploaded in the proper format to be recognized and understood by machines (specifically the search engines), so that an exponential increase in available information is made possible.

That battle-cry is Raw Data Now! Institutions, governments and scientists have an amazing amount of data stored in databases, and Tim gives some excellent examples of how that data can save or improve lives almost immediately after being made available.

But he can explain it much better than I, so here’s a couple of videos of Tim Berners-Lee, explaining what he’s asking from us.

A TED talk by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in Long Beach, February 2009

Another TED talk by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in Long Beach, February 2010:

As you can see, RDFa (Come on! You KNEW I’d work that in here!) can come into play here, as well as microformats and microdata. The important thing is to get the data out there, and linked. Social media activity is another excellent vehicle for linking data. Friends, employers, locations, likes, favorites… the list goes on and on. Every one of us has something to offer, whether it’s tagging someone in a photo, labeling a location on Google Earth or uploading a database.

Linked Data is the key to the realization of the Semantic Web that Tim dreamed of just a few short years ago. Since the first website went live in August of 1991, we’ve come a long way. It’s time to take the next step! is another community effort that is making great contributions, by extracting data from Wikipedia and interlinking it. As you might imagine, that’s a LOT of data. Yet it’s still hardly a scratch on the surface of what is readily available for uploading.

dbpedia interlinked data

Each of us can help, and in doing so, we will drastically improve the amount of information available to all, and the quality of search results. Isn’t it time to get on the ball?


  1. Eldad Sotnick-Yogev says:

    Way to join the battle cry Doc! Although I worry about being tagged in Facebook photos by friends there is much more to be said about the larger use of Social elements to help Search. Microformats and RDFa is one aspect that developers need to take advantage and as someone who tries to teach clients (as well as our own internal people) the benefits of this it’s nice to have this post to point to.

  2. Hello, Eldad! Thanks for popping in and commenting. Yeah, I’ve been singin’ the praises of RDFa and Linked Data for a while, but seems like I haven’t managed to convert a lot of folks yet. Gotta keep trying, though.

    Don’t be stranger, okay? 😉