2007-08-31

Monetizing the Semantic Web

Traditional products and service sellers stand to gain customers because the SemWeb will enable location and comparison. But, how do content creators make money selling RDF triplets? Injecting advertising into rich media might make money on the SemWeb. RDF triplets might be filtered at user's computer - and not merely to remove advertising. However, today's computers lack the smarts to remove advertising from rich media; images, sounds, animations, videos, flash interactives. Google has already begun experiments with advertising support for YouTube videos. Micropayments have been proposed since the days of Xanadu and periodically they become fashionable for a time. Clay Shirky's The Case Against Micropayments discusses why cross-site micropayments have never, and will probably never, succeed. Within single sites micropayments do work. Many sites have created internal micropayment currencies. Amazon's S3 storage service uses a micropayment system that bundles many transactions - charged a cent at a time. Bundling is the right idea. Content creators can offer time-limited subscriptions to specific content. A content reseller (the "Info-Vendor) will then aggregate smaller subscriptions into package offerings. This is similar to how content sales already work for online academic journals, TV shows and music. An Info-Vendor service will then become part of the household utility bill - most likely bundled with broadband and cable TV. An Info-Vendor feed may even become a free good subsidized by taxation. This situation will simplify the finding problem of content selection because only a few sources need be queried. The latency aspect of the SemWeb data topography will be reduced resulting in faster and more reliable service. Content credibility can be judged by the Info-Vendors credibility. Ontological translation and basic inference could be run over the Info-Vendor's data store saving local processing time. There is potential for the AI synthetic creation of new content to outstrip human capacity to make use of the information. Info-Vendors may enforce favorite ontologies (and thus implicitly endorse worldview embedded in the ontology). Info-Vendors will also have a controlling stake in the content that users are exposed to. Alternative viewpoints might just not be represented in any of the commercial Info-Vendor's information stores. Contract and intellectual property laws can prevent users on-selling content (automated via proxies), there is difficulty proving ownership of a single RDF triplet. It is just not economical to include DRM at triplet level granularity. Also any DRM systems are at best voluntary. Info-Vendors will gradually lose control over their RDF triplets as the society starts to copy each triplet over and over again; RDF triplets will, in effect, data-leak into the public domain. Therefore, the value of an RDF triplet is in its scarcity. The most successful Info-Vendors will both make available new RDF triplets, including some created using AI synthesis. Like providers of other services, Info-Vendors will ultimately form a varied marketplace. Access to good Info-Vendor service could become the next digital divide. Summary: The ways to make money on the SemWeb are by injecting advertising into rich media and riding the rise of the Info-Vendor.