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XFN and Friends

Semantic web enthusiasts herald that technologies such as FOAF (Friend of a Friend—an ontology describing relations between people, their activities, etc.) may one day be the catalyst that drives robust decentralized social networks that could be construed as the antithesis of tightly controlled platforms like Facebook. And although so-called semantic web technologies such as FOAF don’t seem to have quite yet reached the tipping point that would lead them into ubiquity, this isn’t too surprising. If you know much about the short history of the Web, you’ll recognize that innovation is rampant and that the highly decentralized nature in which the Web operates is not very conducive to overnight revolutions (see Chapter 10). Rather, change seems to happen continually, fluidly, and in a very evolutionary way. The way that microformats have evolved to fill the void of “intelligent data” on the Web is a particularly good example of bridging existing technology with up-and-coming standards that aren’t quite there yet. In this particular case, it’s a story of narrowing the gap between a fairly ambiguous web, primarily based on the human-readable HTML 4.01 standard, with a more semantic web in which information is much less ambiguous and friendlier to machine interpretation.


  

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