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Web 3.0 Conference: “Semantic Web? It’s already here.”

Wet morning in Santa Clara. People seem to be looking at the sky as if it was falling. We are not used to so much rain here.

There are not many people at the conference. The audience is an interesting mix of semantic geeks, marketing and product managers, business people. Definitely a very heterogeneous crowd.

The most interesting presentations are by Scott Prevost of Microsoft Bing and Mark Greaves from Vulcan.

Scott Prevost comes from the Powerset acquisition by Microsoft and is now part of the Bing project.
“The Semantic Web? It is already here” he says. What he really means is that in the Bing project they use quite extensively semantic technology like the ones we offer at Expert System. His opinion is that semantics, that is already applied under the hoods in all major search engines, is here to stay and will gradually evolve and make the user search experience better – most of the time without the final user even realizing that he is using semantic technologies!

Bing applies semantics in a lot of different ways:
They interpret semantically the requests of the user. Example: “who mocked Sarah Palin” returns not only results with “Sarah Palin” and “mocked”, but also “parodied”, “impersonated”, etc. We at Expert System provide a similar functionality for the Enterprise market with Cogito Answers.
They classify the search results so that they can be filtered and navigated in a better way by the user – similar to what we can do with the Cogito Categorizer.
They try to leverage RDF information added by publishers to their pages – similar to the rich snippets in Google. This information can be added to a search result to make it more interesting to the user and improve his search experience. A classical example is the search results for a restaurant returning the Yelp web page with the average score and the number of reviews. We can help publishers to produce automatically these snippets using our Cogito Discover technology.
 They apply semantics to their advertising platform so that the advertisement campaigns can be based on concepts instead of keywords as they are today. We offer a similar solution with our Cogito Advertiser product.

Another interesting speaker is Mark Greaves from Vulcan Technologies. One of the most interesting points that he talks about is the fact that a lot of data that used to live in databases around the world is now moving into the “Semantic Web”. The advantages are huge:

Linking the data: Think about relational databases and on how you can link one piece of data from one database to another one (maybe belonging to a different organization). It may not be impossible, but it is at least very difficult. One basic advantage of the Semantic Web is that data can be linked in all sorts of ways. The OWL standard in particular provides the means to connect data in different “clouds” very easily.

“Organic growth” of the data: The Semantic Web also allows for “organic growth” of data. As opposed to relational databases where you need to define an outline before you even start entering any data, the Semantic Web is designed to provide the flexibility to add and modify data in different formats in different points in the web. With open data usually there is also a community that maintains it and makes sure it is accurate.

There are also some recurring themes at the conference that seem to be common in many of the talks:
Mobile Internet: Internet on Mobile devices presents some specific challenges. The environment is different (e.g. no big keyword or mouse and much smaller browser). The market is huge, the opportunities also. Search Engines, social networks, content providers discuss how to use semantics to develop this new space.
“Internet of Data”: the huge amount of Linked Open Data that is available for free today on the Internet represents a new and ever growing opportunity that can be leveraged by computer programs to help us humans in our daily tasks.
Social Networking Interaction: this is a concept that seems to mean different things to different people. Some people talk about how social networks can be represented in a “semantic” way with RDF so that it can be used by semantic web applications. Other people talk about the way people in social networks contribute in publishing and maintaining data in the Linked Open Data Cloud in a similar way that the Wikipedia community has developed the huge Wikipedia knowledge base in the last few years.

Bottom line is that the Semantic Web is already here and the ideas discussed at Web 3.0 are mostly about opportunities on how to leverage in order to make our life better…

by Walter Pezzini, VP of Pre-Sales and Professional Services at Expert System


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