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Keywords:

  • semantic networks;
  • semantic web;
  • semantics

The Semantic Web has been criticized for not being semantic. This article examines the questions of why and how the Web of Data, expressed in the Resource Description Framework (RDF), has come to be known as the Semantic Web. Contrary to previous papers, we deliberately take a descriptive stance and do not start from preconceived ideas about the nature of semantics. Instead, we mainly base our analysis on early design documents of the (Semantic) Web. The main determining factor is shown to be link typing, coupled with the influence of online metadata. Both factors already were present in early web standards and drafts. Our findings indicate that the Semantic Web is directly linked to older artificial intelligence work, despite occasional claims to the contrary. Because of link typing, the Semantic Web can be considered an example of a semantic network. Originally network representations of the meaning of natural language utterances, semantic networks have eventually come to refer to any networks with typed (usually directed) links. We discuss possible causes for this shift and suggest that it may be due to confounding paradigmatic and syntagmatic semantic relations.