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.