What does the semantic web offer my site? This is a question I hear all to often. Much of the talk about the semantic web, one of the new hot buzz words, deals with its integration into popular tools such as drupal or the power it will provide when every one's doing it. As someone building sites for clients before the semantic web is in the mainstream it can be easy to dismiss the technology for the time being. Let's look into why it's good to embrace the semantic web now in some practical ways.
What The Semantic Web Means To Your Site Now
Metadata is a something that's been around for a long time. It's in our Microsoft word documents, we often store it in XML, and it helps us better describe what ever it is we are working on. What if your metadata and the metadata of others could work for you?
Imagine someone is viewing a piece of content on your site and you have related content based on the keywords used in the content but, you didn't have to fill in the keywords. They were provided by a smart engine that reads you text and finds them. Or, you have some content about a company and information about that company is displayed in a sidebar automatically based on information from other services. This is what we can do with the semantic web today.
On the flip side, when we have content about sites, companies, services, or other things we want to share them with others. Embracing the semantic web allows use to do that in a way that machines can read, something many websites struggle with. Remember that Google, Yahoo, and search engines are machines trying to read our sites.
There are more than a few services that have popped up in the metadata space that can be very useful. Here are just a few:
- Open Calais is one of the new hot services and was on display at Drupalcon DC. This service can do term extraction, product metadata extraction, company metadata extraction, and more. This information can be used for faceted search and be tied into other services to provide more rich information to your users. There is an Open Calais module providing drupal integration.
- The Yahoo Term Extractor allows your site to extract key terms out of a piece of content. These terms can be used as metadata for the page, can be used to help find related content, and can be used in conjunction with other services. The Yahoo Terms module provides drupal integration with this service.
- Ever wish you could access Wikipedias data via a web service to integrate into your site? Enter dbpedia, and effort to extract structured information from wikipedia and make it available on the web. Imagine automatically extracting a companies name with Open Calais, looking up the name in dbpedia, and displaying company information from dbpedia on your site.
- CrunchBase is a service typically seen on TechCrunch. On a TechCrunch post there is, usually, information about the company or person mentioned in the post. This information is provided by CrunchBase and is open an available to anyone via an API.
RDF and drupal
Dries Buytaert has made it clear he wants semantic metadata information availabe in drupal. Drupal 7 is on the path to have RDFa integration out of the box. RDFa provides a method for sharing semantic information right in your xhtml pages. But, for those of us developing sites now drupal 7 isn't an option. Thanks to the RDF module we don't have to wait. This module integrates RDF into your site. Modules like Open Calais take advantage of the RDF module to share your metadata with search engines and other bots.
The semantic web is already here and useful. Are you ready to embrace it?