The Semantic Puzzle

Andreas Blumauer

“Thesaurus based search engines will become main stream in the near future”

The results of the survey titled “Do controlled vocabularies matter?” which was conducted by Semantic Web CompanyThe Semantic Web Company (SWC), based in Vienna, provides companies, institutions and organizations with professional services related to the Semantic Web, semantic technologies and Social Software from May until June 2011 are public now. Over 150 participants from 27 countries draw a picture of the current and future usage behaviour in the realm of controlled vocabularies.

Here are three of the most interesting outcomes of this questionnaire – the whole report can be found and downloaded on issuu:

Do you think enterprises and other organizations can significantly benefit from using Linked Data?

The answer is a clear YES. A subsequent question also reveals that all kind of organisation sizes have about the same opinion concerning linked data. Only few people think that linked data is a “niche thing”. In general it can be said, that over 90% of the participants think that most or at least some organisations can benefit from using linked data.

Do you think that search engines which utilize thesauri to improve results will become main-stream

The results of this question are amazing: Two thirds of the participants think that thesaurusA thesaurus is a book that lists words grouped together according to similarity of meaning, in contrast to a dictionary, which contains definitions and pronunciations. The largest thesaurus in the world is the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, which contains more than ... based search is already or will become main-stream in the near future. Scepticism towards this development seems to be low – at least it can be stated, that a clear majority thinks that thesaurus based search engines will become main stream in the near future.


How important is the usage of standards like SKOSSimple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) is a family of formal languages designed for representation of thesauri, classification schemes, taxonomies, subject-heading systems, or any other type of structured controlled vocabulary. SKOS is built upon RDF and RDFS, and its main objective is to ... for controlled vocabularies?

The results speak for themselves. The majority of the participants are convinced that standards like SKOS are important for their daily work. In August 2009 W3CThe World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web (abbreviated WWW or W3). Founded and currently led by Tim Berners-Lee, the consortium is made up of member organizations which maintain full-time staff for the purpose of working together ... announced the new SKOS standard – now, nearly two years after, it looks like this standard has well arrived. 48.7% stated that standards like SKOS are very important and 29.1% voted for “relevant”.


As an overall result of the survey it can be stated: Semantic Web community has done a great job to convince the controlled vocabularyControlled vocabularies provide a way to organize knowledge for subsequent retrieval. They are used in subject indexing schemes, subject headings, thesauri and taxonomies. Controlled vocabulary schemes mandate the use of predefined, authorised terms that have been preselected by the designer of ... people to benefit from SKOS and linked data – on the other side only 3-5% are aware of SPARQL as a valuable resource to build standard APIs around controlled vocabularies to lower costs when implementing such knowledge organization systems.

Many thanks to all participants of this survey!