What are the success stories of the Semantic Web/Linked Data?

Imagine I'm a detractor of Semantic Web technologies and/or Linked Data, and I'm not impressed by the usual shiny things or dreamy elevator pitches (not that some of them are not good, but hypothetical me is a hardcode cynic).

What concrete success stories would you point me to to try and change my mind? In other words: what use-cases have demonstrated the practical impact of Semantic Web standards and tools?

Good answers should:
(i) name a concrete use-case;
(ii) say what Semantic Web technologies were used;
(iii) say how they were used;
(iv) give good motivation for why they were used.

(Note, this is different from this question in that I'm not looking for shiny demos, but rather real use-cases demonstrating real benefits: to rephrase, I'm not looking for applications where people say "hey, let's see what we can do with this SW stuff"; instead, I'm looking for use-cases where people say "hey, SW can help us do this stuff". For me, the latter category of use-case is much rarer, and almost all mentioned here fall into the former category.)

BBC World Cup 2010 portal


The BBC web portal for the 2010 World Cup football.



  • BigOWLIM triple store, approached through a REST service offering SPARQL query processing;
  • Dynamic aggregation and publishing, page-rendering using Zend;
  • IBM LanguageWare Language and ontological linguistic platform for concept extraction.


The portal has been serving millions of page requests a day throughout the World Cup on the basis of continually changing OWL reasoned semantic RDF data. The platform currently serves an average of a million SPARQL queries a day.


Practical advantages

The developers stress flexibility and inference as reasons why they used semantic web technology over more traditional technology.

The flexibility played both on the data layer, where it "facilitates agile modeling" and allowed for increased query complexity compared to relational schema databases, as on the presentation layer.

With regards to the presentation layer, the developers stressed that they "are not publishing pages, but publishing content as assets which are then organised by the metadata dynamically into pages, but could be re-organised into any format we want much more easily".

A second technical advantage mentioned is inference. Due to the reasoning facilities of the triple store, inferred statements are automatically derived from the explicitly applied journalist metadata concepts. This made both the journalist tagging and the triple store powered SPARQL queries simpler and indeed quicker than a traditional SQL approach.

Dynamic aggregations based on inferred statements in turn increase the quality and breadth of content across the site.

Future of newsmedia

The BBC (and other media actors) are not solely using semantic web technology for direct, technical advantages. There is a general feeling that the traditional media has somewhat missed the boat when the web took of, as many publishing companies simply re-published their existing content in a static format on the net, failing to take advantage of the hyperlinked, interconnected and two-way nature of the medium.

The calculated guess is that just as the hyperlink revolutionized digital content distribution, the semantic hyperlink and URI promises will an even greater impact. And focused projects such as the World Cup 2010 will allow organizations such as the BBC to be at the forefront of such a change.


Regarding the semantic web stack of technologies, the Wold Cup Portal 2010 is arguably the first large scale, mass media site to be using concept extraction, RDF and a Triple store to deliver content. It demonstrates that that the this kind of technology is ready to deliver large scale, mainstream products.

The BBC intends to continue using this approach for presenting content. They expect that "this technological approach will play a key role in the creation, navigation and management of over 12,000 athletes and index pages for the London 2012 Olympics".

Read more/sources

PLOS Publishing

The quite sizeable PLOS open access publishing platform uses the semantic web publishing framework Ambra. I am not familiar enough with the project to digg up the "why" part, but given the size of the project it will not be to play with experimental tech...

It is certainly not complete (it is difficult to get people to write down what they do) but the SW Use Case and Case Studies collection at W3C 1 gives you some input. I hope this helps. (http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/sweo/public/UseCases/)1

Tracking of "People, Organizations, Projects, and Skills" at NASA. See http://www.w3.org/QA/2011/05/semantic_web_its_not_rocket_sc.html and http://www.snee.com/bobdc.blog/2011/05/semantic-web-at-nasa-lower-cos.html .

The best thing I saw demoed at Semtech 2011 was seevl.net. Seevl.net is a system that makes music recommendations based on semantic data from DBpedia and Freebase. It's not as good as Pandora or Last.fm, but it punches way above it's weight considering the development cost and the amount of data put into it.

Seevl.net might deduce, for instance, that "Katy Perry" is similar to "Lady Gaga" because they've won some of the same awards, they play the same genre of music, are in the same dbpedia categories and otherwise share graph fragments.

If you want to get a good look at seevl, jump in at an artist page; you can find other artists by using the search box in the upper corner.

Outside the formal RDF world, I can think of two interesting Freebase-based startups.

Ranker.net lets users navigate the Freebase type systems to create lists like "The Top Cars For Drifting" or "The Sexiest Film Actors" -- these lists do well on sites like Digg and drive substantial traffic and substantial revenue.

Chris Tetsa of Ad.ly gave a dynamic talk at Semtech 2011 about how Ad.ly uses Freebase data to identify "celebrities" who then become the target of a sales process for a company that recruits them to run ads in their Twitter schemes.

Both Ranker and Ad.ly are using non-standard tools, but they're doing interesting things that are making social-semantic systems a reality.

Contextual Search by Volkswagen UK:


For the benefit of @signified and others:


  • Operational Efficiency

  • Content Accessibility and Discoverability


Pretty much the entire Semantic Web technology stack - RDF, RDFS/OWL, SPARQL, RDFa


Across the entire buisness. By the end, RDF and SPARQL was replacing the need for a RDBMS. RDFa was in use across the main website and was being rolled out across 3rd party portals.


Pure, unsullied need for something better.

And now for something completely different:

2012 is going to be the year of the Semantic Web.

Expect a maelstrom and I mean a maelstrom of RDF and SPARQL.

This is the year we put the cynics and the skeptics to bed.

Watch this space...

Relevant to this question is the book Linking Enterprise Data, available online for free, which has a part called "Success Stories", with 5 chapters.