The services of the ‘semantic web’

Many of the services that are being developed as part of the ‘semantic web’ are necessarily works in progress, but they all contribute to extending the success of this burgeoning area of technology. There are plenty more popping up all the time, but for the purposes of this post I have loosely grouped some prominent sites into specialities – social networking, search and browsing – before briefly explaining their uses.


OpenCalais is a way to tag people, places, facts and events in pre-existing content to increase its value and accessibility. It makes use of RDF to annotate content intelligently and automatically so that it can be used in more meaningful ways. Developed by Thomson Reuters, the service now has a preview tool that can take any document and provide a display of the results of tagging and linking the semantic data. It provides an immediate and useful example of the way the technology works and is fun to play around with. OpenCalais is also available as a WordPress plugin which uses the service for auto tagging posts and archives with the correct themes.

headup is a Firefox plugin that enables semantic capabilities within any web page. Extra data is displayed fully in context as the service just alerts the user with a ‘+’ symbol when there is something else of interest to them. On encountering data about a band, headup might highlight the latest YouTube videos, tour dates and official blog-posts next to their name. This data can all be viewed without ever navigating away from the original page. Impressively headup’s semantic engine promises to provide a personalised service by retrieving information that specifically interests the individual user. You can watch a demonstration video here.


SemantiFind claims to return more relevant results than traditional search engines, yet users can still continue using them as it is compatible with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Live Search. You have to download and install a free browser plug-in, but SemantiFind results are displayed alongside normal search engine results, offering some familiarity. You can watch a demonstration video here.

Powerset is among those services applying natural language processing to the web and Wikipedia already benefits from its approach. Powerset displays an interface alongside the Wiki itself so users can navigate quickly and seamlessly using the keywords, themes and sections which have been stripped out of the original article. You can watch a demonstration video here.

iGlue is a search engine that tries to identify and manage entities, not keywords. The service finds relevant information even if the given element appears in a form different from that used in the original search. It understands that corresponding words can sometimes be substituted. You can see a demonstration of the technology here.


Twine seems to be the pre-eminent ‘semantic web’ service when it comes to social networking. It acts as a means of collecting and sharing all kinds of online content, learning more about you as you fill it up and link to other content. Twine aims to build on the principles of developing communities of interest. You can even interact with Nova Spivack, the site’s creator, and see what things have captured his attention.

It is clear that all of the services – whether targeted at browsing, search or social networking – foster more advances in the field and my final post on the ‘semantic web’ explores the revolutionary uses of these new technologys for the benefit of journalism. My previous post called ‘The next step to the ‘semantic web” can be found here.

11 thoughts on “The services of the ‘semantic web’

  1. Pingback: The next step to the ’semantic web’ | Online Journalism Blog

  2. Greg Collette

    Great post! The semantic web picture is coming into focus. As you say, it is a big picture. Another element is Smart wizards, assembled from the net on-the-fly.

    Our intelligent internet project grew from our Knowledge Management background. Our objective has been to move KM up a few notches, from the passive “read about it” to the interactive “do it” with wizards assembled from the net on-the-fly.

    The technology is called gStepOne, which taps into the world’s body of “doing” knowledge – the smartest ways to produce the best outcomes, from the billions of web pages on the net.
    Users draw a map of the steps in a task by dragging and dropping shapes onto a page, then linking and naming the steps. gStepOne Googles the web for supporting “How to” information, training, pictures, videos, maps, blogs, etc. for each step and generates the wizard.

    The wizard is then available to guide and support others when they do the task.

    Anyone can create a wizard (no programming skills needed) to help deliver a service, sell a house, hire staff, conduct an event, adopt a child, take out insurance, apply for a grant – any task where people need an Assistant to help them do things like an expert, without the expert being there.

    Check it out at

  3. Greg Collette

    Oops, I forgot my question!

    gStepOne taps into the world’s body of “doing” knowledge – the smartest ways to produce the best outcomes, from the billions of web pages on the net to find an appropriate Advise Me.

    However, we only use a (structured) Google search. There are many other specifically built “How to” sites that we should search, including:: http– eHow How To Do Just About Everything! Helium – Where Knowledge Rules HubPages knol a unit of knowledge Mahalo – How To Categories Main Page – Wikipedia Oondi Overview (Home) Powerset wikiHow Yahoo! Answers – Home Answer Search | SnappyFingers – About Us Scribd Fluther: Tap the Collective Answer Universe etc. etc.

    We need smarten up our search so the gStepOne “knows” that these sites (and others like them) exist, and that goes to them as part of the search.

    Any suggestions about how we can do this using semantic web techniques?

  4. Pingback: Morning Edition - Mar 25, 2009 « Sazbean

  5. Frank Febbraro

    Glad to see someone starting to write about how the Smenatic Web will change journalism.

    For those that are interested in OpenCalais and Drupal, we have created a Semantic Drupal Platform for online publishers called OpenPublish. You can learn more about it @ It has OpenCalais integration built into it’s content types with a great theme and a lot of features like More Like This related content suggestions and Topic Hubs for semantic content aggregation to get your site up and running in no time.

  6. Pingback: links for 2009-03-26 « David Black

  7. Kristine

    Good list. However, I’m perpetually interested in everything new and shiny promising to be the future but I must admit I simply haven’t been able to get my head around Twine yet. It’s slow, there’s few people there, seems to be few from my other networks – and the few ‘new’ people I’ve met there have just set up a profile “to be there” while most of their time, like mine, is spent on other parts of the social web. The people is often what makes these places, so perhaps it will improve once more people are there – but I’d love to hear from anyone smitten with Twine how they benefit from it and use it (I know the theory of what the semantic web is meant to do of course, but just not found the magic, semantic or otherwise, with Twine yet).

  8. Pingback: Summer plans and soul searching for jobless journalism graduates « Michael Haddon

  9. Pingback: The services of the ’semantic web’ « Michael Haddon

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