Upon getting myself up to date on the semantic web, which will supposedly revolutionize web browsing as we know it, I harbored a few misgivings that the concept is too idealized to work quite as planned. Web manufacturers like myself are the ones who will shoulder most of the burden of creating metadata about our websites’ individual URLs, and frankly it’s not a task I look forward to, given the current lack of tools to simplify the process. I found a hilarious article by Cory Doctorow (who since this article’s publication has become an accomplished novelist) that expresses my doubts almost perfectly and even manages to employ the term “poo-gas” to optimum effect.
I used to be an organization freak who would willingly subscribe to the rigid structure of this semantic web, but over the years my concerns have become far more practical: what can a website do for me today? I don’t care if other (possibly non-existent) applications can “understand” the content on my web page. The amount of work required to make that happen doesn’t match up to the supposed advantages of making it happen. In the end and as usual, the mob and the intelligentsia will have to settle on a compromise—neither a perfectly categorized semantic web nor a hideously broken myspace-esque web are feasible. The solution? I nominate microformats. They are a cinch to incorporate into existing code and once standardized they can be recognized by a bevy of applications. Their website says it best: rather than trying to reinvent the web, they merely “pave the cow paths.”