Tim Berners-Lee, in his blog recently made a very insightful observation about the next phase of conceptual layout of the web and its connections. TBL coined GGG (aptly named as Giant Global Graph) to distinguish from the World Wide Web - and what it meant.
Tim observed that "It's not the documents, it is the things they are about which are important". Many industry practitioners have observed that "objects" mean a lot more than "data". When expressing a problem, objects and their relationships can have far better value than data and files.
Web was/is the world's filesystem - where we could find things quickly. The Internet was categorized by Yahoo (in a failed effort), tagged by Google (effectively) - and today we can instanly access information from anywhere in the world without thinking about where it comes from. C:\ became http://.
Semantic web has been having trouble getting serious due to its closeness with Artifical Intelligence - and related expectations. The dream of machines running the world is still not any closer to reality. The hope is that the RDF layer on XML may possibly give better direction to a machine than just URLs from the Web.
For example, in social networks FOAF (Friend of a friend) relationships may be represented in a machine readable form using simple XML files (called RDF). Representing relationships in machine readable format (just as we do in databases) have value. Eventually the machines may be able to make intelligent references based on connections represented in the relations- and eventually deliver some results. This was the expectation under which XML technologies was developed circa 1996, and after 10 years we are getting somewhere.
However, semantic web almost screeches to a halt after this step. Success in practical Ontology, feasible Modal Logic and Axiology (even remotely) has been appalling. Not surprising. NP complete problems are NP complete - intelligence is not purely XML driven. Intelligence is more than a graph, with aspects overlaid, and experiences to glue. Tackling true intelligence is a dream.
We sometimes forget the real use of data - that of providing value to humanity in various forms, and providing true functionality as the humans need it. Connections are good, but functionality is paramount. The fact that a company can store ticket information on the web is not sufficient, but the user being able to buy it is significant. A company storing data is not sufficient, it being able to sieve out information from it, transforming it into knowledge, and converting to action is paramount. Somewhere along this, functionality becomes the significant aspect.
URLs are becoming more potent with XML wrappers (RDF/OWL/SPARQL) around it. The new generation of applications will be playing on these enhancers to achieve seamlessness that we have sorely been lacking in the last 25 years.
The WebTop is becoming more significant than the desktop. Browsers that were a mere window to the world may become a real wide entrance to the world itself. In a very short time, local resources on a computer may have no significance in how users achieve functionality.