In the last year, Jon and I had the opportunity to present on several occasions our take on the progress and development of the semantic web (next show: Bangalore). During this talk, one of the take home messages we try to convey is that the “limited success” of the semantic web vision has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with economics. Over the last 10 years, Mr. Joe “site owner” has had no incentive to even learn about RDF, let alone go ahead and build his site as semantic web compliant. The most he would be willing to do, and even that is recent, is generate an RSS or two from his home page. Thus, we advocated, semantic web followers should work on generating the incentive, and the rest will follow. Dapper’s success is attributed, to a large extent, to the fact we’re addressing the end-users, who have the incentive to go and make the effort, because they want to build a new RSS/Widget/Mashup etc.
And of course, also attributed to our coding ninjas 🙂
Last Thursday (March 13th, 2008), Yahoo’s search team, led by Amit Kumar, presented a strong and clear incentive for web publishers everywhere to jump on the semantic web bandwagon. By announcing that Slurp (Yahoo’s web crawler) will soon start indexing semantic web information, Yahoo effectively transformed the act of making a site “semantic web compliant” into an SEO strategy, taken into account in their crawling, indexing, scoring and presentation of search results.
Now for most publishers and media companies out there, the budget for “pleasing the geeks” is quite small. However, their SEO budget? Well, that’s a totally different story. As Amit rightfully states: “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.” Indeed.
To help site owners make their site semantic web compliant, we’re announcing several tools today. First, we’re announcing the Dapper “Semantify” service – a service that lets you seamlessly create an RDFa version of every page on your site, with virtually zero hassle. When Yahoo’s search engine crawler (or other semantic aware machines) requests a page on a Semantify enabled site, it gets the page augmented inline with the right semantically tagged meta-data. When an end-user requests that page, it gets your usual page. Using the Semantify service, you’ll be able to add meaningful semantics to your site, which in turn will allow Yahoo to better incorporate your content in their search results.
We believe that by removing the technological barrier of re-engineering sites to incorporate semantic information, we will enable a much larger group of publishers to semantify their sites, pushing us further into a world where the semantic web is mainstream.Soon we will also release an RDF transformer that lets you generate an RDF compliant XML as an output of a Dapp. One way in which you can make use of this transformer is by incorporating it as a <link> tag in your pages’ header.
While the road forward is very long, at Dapper we believe that 2008 will be the year where the semantic web will finally have a fighting chance. It is up to us all to make it happen. We hope you will find these new services useful, and we welcome feedback to help us shape their future.
Update: Marshall has written a great blog post about Semantify over at Read/WriteWeb.