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SWiPE: An Example of Easier Semantic Web Software

I was thrilled to come across ZDNet's coverage of SWiPE, a query-by-example approach to structured searching of wikipedia. SWiPE is being developed by Maurizio Atzori and Carlo Zaniolo and will be presented later thismonth at the demo track of the WWW2012 conference in Lyon. While information about the SWiPE design and implementation are presented in excruciating detail in Maurizio and Carlo's conference paper, the formality and detail of the paper belies the simplicity and ease-of-use of the tool.

Maurizio and Carlo are building on top of DBPedia, the Semantic Web representation of information (mostly) from Wikipedia infoboxes, but you wouldn't know that from watching the tool in action. There's no URIs, no mention of RDF, no mention of SPARQL; finding specific answers to a question is straightforward. Go ahead and watch the demo of SWiPE in action. It's only 23 seconds, I'll wait:

Got it? SWiPE lets you fill in values in existing infoboxes to find any entries on wikipedia that match the information you supply. It's simple and obvious to use, and it doesn't require any new context or user interface beyond the infoboxes that we all know very well already.

SWiPE is a fantastic example of what I've written about before: the need for Semantic Web software that is easy to use. As long as people need to learn SPARQL or learn how to use a linked data browser or learn how to use a circles-and-arrows-based query tool, the vast majority of people who could benefit from the power of DBPedia's structured representation of Wikipedia data were going to be missing out. By making Wikipedia search simple, though, SWiPE has the potential to bring this benefit to a far greater audience. I, for one, can't wait to try it out myself.

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