The Semantic Desktop, The Semantic OS

May 1, 2007

One of the most useful recent additions to my Gnome desktop has been Beagle, Nat’s personal desktop search daemon. I also discovered that in Ubuntu Feisty there is a deskbar that traces all the actions you do from your desktop, including your web activity and beagle searches. The more you use it, the more relevant it becomes since humans are repetitive.

Then, it happened: Tim pointed me this morning to Beagle++, a semantic desktop search engine based on Beagle, and that triggered the thought.

There ain't a semantic web. No, you read me well, there won't be one. It won't be the Web 3.0. No. The next revolution will be on the OS, not on the web.

Web 2.0, user generated content, and data mashups present a taxonomy of data available from an almost infinite variety of sources. And that will continue to grow. But understanding the meaning of data is something that belongs to our brains. The ability of a server to interact with a human being is very limited and it would require a tremendous flow of data between us and many servers out there. Whereas our desktops currently track much more information which can be used to understand the meaning of for example, a search query.

Eventually, the desktop and the OS will capture our facial expressions, our mood, our feelings. Really, it's not that hard.

What this will mean is that the applications that deliver the semantic web will actually reside on our desktops, not on the server. There won't be a need for processing on the server. The semantic analysis will happen on the desktop.

When you really think about it, it sort of makes sense. People are reluctant to leave a behavioral trail on the web, let alone have things such as feelings captured on somebody's database. You want to keep that privacy, and ensure that sort of data lives somewhere where we have much better control of it: our desktops.

Web 3.0 will be about client-side applications, powered on Javascript, Flash, Java Web Start, .NET Smart clients, etc. The current browsers will change to integrate better with the desktop. The OS will change to feed a lot of behavioural data to the desktop. The desktop will control our semantic experience. The OS will become a browser, and the browser will become an OS. The OS will become a search engine, and the search engine will be our OS.

Don't believe me? Well, I am not asking you to do so ... my good friends at MIT have already proven it:

Who said Gnome wasn't cool?

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