Here I am, third time at SemTech conference! Having some perspective, maybe a bit of reflection is due.
Has the topic evolved over the years? People in attendance are mostly from big enterprises, DoD contractors and lots and lots of providers of semantic stack solutions of all kinds, mostly for enterprises. The average age is pretty old compared to any other tech conference I visit. The topic stays mostly the same, with some direction toward slightly more non-enterpriseish stuff.
During all there years there has been a small amount of companies, that don’t declare themselves as capital letter Semantic Web, but were eager to be adopted as champions of the conference. In 2008 there were a few notable companies presenting PowerSet, Twine, Siri (named Stealth-Company at the time).
There’s an interesting contrast lurking here. It seems there is less and less (none?) VC activity in pure Semantic Web space – except for persisting Mark Greaves, I haven’t seen any other VC or angels at the conference this year. On the other hand some companies that just used ‘semantic web thinking’ as part of solving user’s problems have done rather well. Siri exited to Apple in April (200M+), and PowerSet exited to Microsoft in 2008 (100M for that deal seemed low to some, but with a luxury of hindsight it was perfect timing as PowerSet on its own would have had a very hard time). Twine seems to have failed and was eaten by Evri with which it shared the main investor. Probably there were more startups from that year that somehow faded, however the point is that commercial success is possible with the right (non ideological?) approach.
Linked Data (both open and enterprise one) is making the rounds and there seems to be some genuine progress there (for example its use in BBC, ViewChange player, etc). I’ve just sat through InfoChims and Factual panel led by Josh Dilworth, it seems people are now genuinely interested in linking their data with external databases. Freebase is integrating many third party sources too, OpenCalais is tauting great SEO results by adding semantic information, etc. Luckily in most cases semantic stuff stays hidden from end users, like Zemanta does.
In next post… more thoughts on my (controversial?) presentation: Semantic Web User Intrfaces – Do They Have To Be Ugly? Amazingly it received about hundred retweets!
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