Current People Search engines and sites make assumptions as to the relationships between data and people. The word assumptions is critical here as, although some of the People Search Engines search Web 2.0 sites as well as the standard search engines and the deep web, the data returned are a best guess of their relationships. Web 3.0 is about a more intelligent Internet with the Semantic Web likely being a central component of the post Web 2.0 Internet.
The Semantic Web and FoaF
The Semantic Web is comprised of various projects but the most relevant to People Search is the ‘Friend of a Friend’ (FoaF) project. FoaF is about understanding the relationships between people. At present, as described earlier we can guess that certain relationships exist and even know that relationships do actually exist through mostly social media sites such as Facebook (where it can be mapped as to who relates to who e.g. person 121 is somehow related to person 543). What can’t be understood easily is the nature of the relationship e.g. person 121 is related to person 543 and they are family.
FoaF describes the relationship as well as defining the type of relationship. WordPress (the popular blogging platform), for example, already offers elements of FoaF (check out the in the XHTML Friends Network (XFN) for more information). In WordPress, when one adds a link it is possible to add relationship information such as; Geographical relationship, Family relationship, Romantic relationship as well as other types of relationship. XFN is certainly on track with the ideas behind FoaF.
Can FoaF Work
Sure, FoaF will be implemented and will work. There are however a few things that need to be further addressed. FoaF only works if the data are caputred for the relationships. At present FoaF is totally reliant on these relationships being defined by people. Once this major obstacle is overcome FoaF will be a huge hit!
Benefits for Search
The accuracy of search is based on various statistical analysis of what is known about data as well as supposing relationships between data. With the Symantic Web accuracy of search will be significantly improved because of the understanding of how data are related. Take People Search as an example, when Web 3.0 arrives and we search for a specific person we’ll get accurate and comprehensive results rather that assumed results.
Roll-on Web 3.0…..the accuracy of search will be transformed!
May 2009: Check out these pages for more on the latest developments relating to RDFa and Microformats (there has been a recent explosion around these formats of the semantic web):