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Yahoo! is Embracing the Semantic Web



By David Snyder

Yahoo took a step towards developing its search technology for the future by announcing the adoption of some key standards of the “semantic web.”

On Yahoo’s company blog, Amit Kumar, director of product management for the company’s search site, said the organization had begun to support key semantic web standards.

In explanation of his thoughts on the semantic web Kumar wrote:

“While there has been remarkable progress made toward understanding the semantics of web content, the benefits of a data web have not reached the mainstream consumer. Without a killer semantic web app for consumers, site owners have been reluctant to support standards like RDF, or even microformats. We believe that app can be web search.”

The semantic web, unlike the current system on interconnectivity between sites that most search engines use, would help capture the meaning of data on a page and define its relevance to a certain topic. Much of this defining would be done using semantic web identifiers, also called tags.

This announcement is likely to create a much more active use of the availability of tags, now that they will have more use.

The beginning of Yahoo’s use of the semantic web will be seen in microformats such as hCard, hCalendar, hReview, hAtom, and XFN.

The concept is exciting since it shows a growth in search technology, but its flaws are already obvious. A system of search based off of user generated tagging sets the stage for the type of manipulation search engines did away with when they limited the function and power of the Meta tag.

However, if a search technology can figure out how to utilize the semantic web, while weeding out the inevitable spam, it will lead to extremely relevant search indices that are not limited by differences in vocabulary and use of jargon.

The one obvious reason for Yahoo’s interest in this technology is it will firmly pin itself against Google’s PageRank based system. Although Google has patents dealing with latent semantics the concept of the “semantic web” is obviously a threat to the interconnected web approach upon which Google was founded.

The announcement is also interesting considering the Wall Street Journal reported that Yahoo and Microsoft held informal talks last Monday in Silicon Valley. Will the semantic web concept survive an acquisition? It would be an interesting concept seeing as Microsoft would like nothing more than to beat Google to the search punch.

About David Snyder

David Snyder is the online marketing manager for THAT Agency.