Creating semantic Web sites could be smooth as Silk

Now officially available to everyone, the Silk project lets you build your own Web site and view those of others using information linked together from different sources.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

You can now build and view a Silk Web site that combines lots of information into one single spot, sparing you and others from searching different places for all that data.

Moving from private to public beta today, Silk is an online application that tries to tap into the "semantic" Web by collecting and displaying information from the Internet, from your own documents, and from other sources. As the folks at Silk describe it, the idea is to let people select "the data they want from the mass of information available, and to view and arrange it in ways that make sense to them."

You can create your own Silk-based Web site and view sites already built by others.

Here's how Silk works.

You first set up your Web site with your own Silk domain name. You then start populating it with pages containing data from any source you choose, such as other Web sites or your own documents and spreadsheets. You then add tags to each page to identify it and connect it to all the other pages on your site. You can also insert widgets to add tables, charts, maps, and other objects.

Of course, building the site is most of the battle as you have to hunt for and gather up all the information you need to add. But after your site is up and running, you can invite other people to add even more information to it, turning it into a collaborative group effort. The more people you invite, the bigger and more comprehensive your site can become.

In one sense, a Silk site is similar to a Wiki in that it unites information from different sources and can grow through the combined efforts of several creators and contributors.

If building your own site is not your thing, you can view sites created by other people.

One Silk site I like is devoted to the Simpsons, offering everything you ever wanted to know about the popular cartoon characters from Springfield. You can browse specific pages on different characters to pick up certain details. For example, the page on Bart provides his full name, date of birth (he'd actually be 30 in real years), his relationships with other characters, and some of the episodes in which he's appeared.

As with any Web site, all the information is linked together so you can easily jump from one Simpsons character or episode or other tidbit to another.

People have been touting the semantic Web for years. But it's still a concept that has yet to fully bloom. Silk is in the same boat. Yet the potential is there to be able to provide a great amount of information in one place. The folks behind the application have more tricks in store. So I expect we'll be hearing more about Silk as it continues to grow.

 

A Tour of Silk

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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