You BET there is a race since he who UNDERSTANDS will WIN. In fact it is possible to look at almost every VC funded "predictive analytics" as a version of "semantic web". The days when a computer finishes 194th against human crossword puzzle pros are numbered.
There is race because the very SMART people running Google, Facebook and from a metrics standpoint Adobe and Oracle can ADD. Once context is pierced well enough to know when something is said in ANGER, JOY or LOVE watch out since everything we do will change once again.
I'm already a believer in how the future forms up around algorithms informed by business rules and with human overseers checking in via exception reports (only). As we move toward Real Time being the only time the "membrane" of what we call a "website" will need to be so much more flexible and sensitive.
This isn't Big Brother as much as it is David Ogilvy. Semantics will inform the algorithms as a "website" forms to almost a one-to-one (or one to one persona) relationship. I saw the beginning of this idea in a demo yesterday from http://www.insightera.com/
Right now Insightera is a simple "read the cookie, fire the creative" as a popunder or into a "zone". I also looked at Baynote.com for much the same idea in B2C back in the day. Soon such a toy will seem so tiny and small as we create a million websites from a set of variables in real time.
What does semantics and our coming dynamic future mean for SEO? Semantics is the final death blow to SEO. SEO as in a spider visits your website in order to UNDERSTAND it is already tied in to social. Post the social revolution SEO is about checking to see if YOUR belief in yourself is matched by the world's.
And if NO is the answer to the question above I suggest living in a cement basement with lots of canned goods and gallons and gallons of water because the wrath of a million angry spiders can be a horrible thing to experience.
Does prompt an interesting semantic notion. If the first search engine to figure out how to UNDERSTAND wins big what is the corresponding prize for Internet marketers?
I have some ideas and could tell you +David Amerland
but then no one buys our book (lol). Semantic + predictive, the two go hand in hand, is what is next.
Possible to argue Panda is already a HUGE leap in the "predictive analytics" area. The reason semantic web is tied to Navneet Panda's genius is you can't create a web that UNDERSTANDS efficiently without a huge RETHINK in some important core areas (processing power, caching , social, SEO, etc...).
The right question is if SEO is DEAD as a doornail when semantics rules the web WHAT is Google's replacement? SEO is, at its core, a voting booth.
The more LINKS, LIKES and LOVE a website gets the more VALUE it has. This logic has flaws as the nasty eyeglasses distributor in NYC proved.
Without SEMANTIC understanding of links anyone with MORE looks BETTER. Once Google et al. has SEMANTIC UNDERSTANDING they will move too DISCOUNT link quantity for quality.
If you can read that last sentence and not think Google Authorship is the most important thing for you to do TODAY you are asleep at the Internet marketing switch (and good luck with that :).
Semantic changes everything...Again.