Through scenarios in the popular press and technical papers in the research literature, the promise of the Semantic Web has raised a number of different expectations. These expectations can be traced to three different perspectives on the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web is portrayed as: (1) a universal library, to be readily accessed and used by humans in a variety of information use contexts; (2) the backdrop for the work of computational agents completing sophisticated activities on behalf of their human counterparts; and (3) a method for federating particular knowledge bases and databases to perform anticipated tasks for humans and their agents. Each of these perspectives has both theoretical and pragmatic entailments, and a wealth of past experiences to guide and temper our expectations. In this paper, we examine all three perspectives from rhetorical, theoretical, and pragmatic viewpoints with an eye toward possible outcomes as Semantic Web efforts move forward.