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The Synaptic Web
will be users themselves, not the platforms, who decide with whom, what, when and where connections occur.
The Synaptic Web is forming. It will be made of small pieces loosely and organically joined. More profoundly, though, the connections between those pieces will be just as important as the pieces themselves. The connections will be interoperable and create spontaneous meaningful interactions. The network will look less like a two dimensional spiders web and more like a three dimensional human brain. And like with all things, the more connections occur, the faster our pace of innovation and serendipity.
Comparisons to the Semantic Web
Not surprisingly, many have asked how the Synaptic web relates to the Semantic web. The question stems not just from the similarity in terms but also the observation that they address many of the same issues. This is no accident. Our ideas about what we’ve called the Synaptic web are directly informed by observations, our own and others', about the status of Semantic web ideas and initiatives that have been in play for well over a decade. Specifically:
1) semantic systems are still largely confined to the lab - however brilliant in the abstract, real-life technical and (more importantly) organizational and behavioral obstacles continue to block widespread adoption. It is now painfully obvious that machines often fail to make the right connections because only the most diligent humans have the patience and understanding to properly classify their work and others have incentives to intentionally misclassify content.
2) semantic analysis and data classification is simply one way to create richer connections on the network - it may be that semantic systems can achieve scale. We'd love to see it happen. Meantime, the advent of the real-time web, increasingly effective publishing, sharing and engagement tools make it easier to find connections between nodes in near-real time by leveraging the power of systems (machine learning, neural networks, etc.) to infer meaning and connections by observing human gestures at scale.
3) real progress toward a richer and more connected and “intelligent” web is occurring – we think this is happening as a result of the sheer mass of content and density of connections that now exist and through a process that more closely resembles biological/neurological change than an engineering effort.
It's important to note that, whereas the Semantic web has always been a prescriptive project - specifically concerned with architecting the web’s future - we’re more interested in building a descriptive framework to help us understand what’s actually happening, how and why and with the goal of keeping our own systems "firing".
The following table is our attempt to highlight what we think are some of the key distinctions between Semantic and Synaptic frameworks.