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What Is Semantic Social Networking?

Semantics is not an entirely foreign notion in the world of social networks, but it has so far only been used to help link ideas and concepts together, not people. We want to take the idea of using semantics and make it social by creating meaningful connections not just between abstract concepts, but between people. Kind of like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but with fewer degrees.

Ok, let’s break this down.

Semantics.  You’ve probably encountered this word before. Semantics is the study of meaning through the analysis of relationships. If you’ve heard anyone refer to the semantics of a sentence, all they are really talking about is how a sentence is worded.

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We have semantics to thank for explaining why “Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo” is a complete sentence.

The idea of semantic networking came into being over one hundred years ago and started as a simple framework to explain the relationship between different things. (How can a dog and a cat be linked semantically?  They both have fur.  That’s one oversimplified example). The general application behind semantic networking is actually pretty simple: just gather and organize data according to the things they have in common.

For example, I love to cook and you love to cook.  Now we have a semantic link between us.

Do you see where we’re going with this?  With social networking, it’s possible to bring the idea of semantic networking out of its purely conceptual mold and create a tangible, user-driven semantic social network. The application of a semantic social network can be a little more focused, purposeful, and explicit: organize people according to shared interests. 

It sounds simple, so why haven’t we seen this come to fruition yet?

Semantic theory on the world wide web has already fallen comfortably into search. Besides sporadic evidence that the industry is trying to make semantic framework applicable to social networks, such as Google’s purchase of a Semantic Social Networking patent, we have yet to see any legitimate examples of a semantic social network, which makes me think it is either being overlooked, ignored, or is secretly in development and soon to shake things up.

Personally, I’m hoping for the latter option.

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