March 25, 2008
Semantic Web Patterns: A Guide to Semantic Technologies – ReadWriteWeb
Alex Iskold wrote a nice article that provides an overview and categorization of semantic web approaches, technologies, and companies.
Here are a few key points from the article, interspersed with some of my own perspectives.
- The Semantic Web is now capturing broad attention, and has been called the number one trend in 2008 (by Richard MacManus, founder of ReadWriteWeb).
- Yahoo! recently announced that their search engine is going to support RDF and microformats. This will provide incentive for publishers to use semantic markup in their content. This echoes a point I made in my semantic web keynote talk last year (see below), that search engines would create incentives to drive the semantic web faster than people may have expected.
- Several companies are now offering web services to support or automate semantic markup. These include the Semantify web service from Dapper, the Open Calais web service from Reuters/ClearForest, and the Semantic Hacker API from TextWise.
- There are top-down and bottom-up approaches to the Semantic Web. Bottom-up approaches require people to enter semantic markup. This can be in strong semantic web formats using standards like RDF, or in lightweight markup formats, like Microformats.
- Search is potentially a killer app of semantic technologies. The author argues that semantic technologies alone are not enough to deliver better search, but when used in combination with the other search techniques they might be better. I agree that the combination is best. But I disagree with the statement that
Google’s algorithm, which is based on statistical analysis, deals just fine with semantic entities like people, cities, and companies.
I think there is a significant gap today between what we are used to with search engines and what is possible with stronger semantic approaches, and this will become clearer over the next year.
- Contextual technologies use semantic markup within the page and combine that with external content and services. Thus a user does not have to search in order to benefit from the semantics. Examples include Snap, Yahoo Shortcuts, and SmartLinks. Such technologies are making their way into the browser, where they will have wider appeal and accelerate the trend toward the semantic web.
- Semantic databases focus on building and utilizing structure semantic information (as opposed to marking up unstructured content). Twine, by Radar Networks, and Freebase, by Metaweb, are two examples. (I am personally familiar with Freebase as we are integrating this within our offerings at Powerset.) Over time, we will see increasing synergies between the semantic technologies based on structured and unstructured data.
I highly recommend this article to people interested in semantic technologies and search. For my own perspective on the relationship between natural language, search, and the semantic web, you can see the video and presentation of my Keynote Talk at the 2007 International Semantic Web Conference, entitled Natural Language and the Semantic Web.