A defining characteristic of the semantic web is that information should be stored in a machine-readable format.

To shore up its readiness, Google bought Metaweb in July, 2010, thereby gaining Metaweb’s open-source database, Freebase.  Freebase has 12 million web “entities”, from science to celebrities.  It behaves almost like a person, combining bits of information

Better than Google, we could ask the web questions and get sensible answers.  We already have that in Wikipedia, but it is a single site.  Freebase includes such wikis, but tags items so that computers can understand what they are about, and then relate them to each other by meaning, rather than by ranking.

An example given in New Scientist (31 July 2010) is one entry for “Chicago” which is about the city; while another “Chicago” is about the stage show: “Freebase’s tags and links will help Google develop smarter searches (p.20),” asserts the article.

Naturally, Google is not the only Web 2.0/3.0 player to realise the attractiveness of the semantic web.  Twitter has and “annotations” system that allows tweets to be tagged with information that does not appear in the message, but can be read by computers.  (Remember the hidden HTML codes that were used in the early days of Google as a means of optimising an item’s ranking on that site?)  Facebook has changed its Open Graph settings to allow a semantic element.

It’s hard not to agree with New Scientist that, “The moves by Facebook and Twitter could change the very nature of how we interact with the web.” Software writers will be able to build apps that search for bars and cafes that your Facebook friends have enjoyed (not just visited).  This feature makes the semantic web very attractive to advertisers.  It will extend the effectiveness of some of the applications discussed in the previous blog on this site.

Most of all, it will extend the current trend among web designers to include Facebook’s “like” button to encourage links from Facebook pages to improve their visibility.  But, as New Scientist notes, Facebook’s “like” button doesn’t solve the incentive problem:  “If you can find a way to attach tags to users’ blogs and tweets, you will have a much richer source of data.”  That is what a new recommendation service, GetGlue is all about.  It’s a bit like Foursquare and Groupon, except that it is a network which focuses on entertainment, rather than products and services http://getglue.com/ .  You can check-in and rate things or discover new popular choices, see what your friends enjoy, and win prizes.

If website owners can be persuaded to tag their content for semantic logic, surfers and advertisers will be able to more accurately pinpoint meaning-specific facts, opinions and connections between consumers and their interests.


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