Web Semantics and Search

Posted May 27th, 2008 by Mike Cherim

Semantics, schemantics, right? If that’s your view, you might want to start questioning it now. The importance of web semantics may be on the rise. Semantics is meaning. On the web semantic HTML conveys this meaning to the user and his or her user agent. It lends itself to web accessibility, and the clear content organization is extraordinarily helpful to being properly indexed by search engines. Someday this fact may be more important than ever thanks to an interesting new approach to search.

There is a company called PowerSet that offers a tool for searching Wikipedia articles. (Here’s a video demo.) It does this not by link analysis and indexing algorithms in the Googlesque fashion we’re familiar with, but instead uses the semantics of natural language in hopes of finding relevant information within the proper context. It works well in terms of user results, and it offers some elegant options. My experience, derived from a test session, was excellent. Bear in mind I had no real benchmark for comparison because it doesn’t search the whole web, yet, but I found it quite impressive all the same. It is a new direction in the world of search.

If this tech can scour the web successfully, it could offer a whole new search layer. And if the technology is one day incorporated into other search tools, as I suspect it will be (and hopefully for free!), it’s going to make the semantic web — and its inherent accessibility — even more important to than it is right now. There could be a focus shift of some proportion: from off-the-wall link exchanges to the observance of semantic content and proper markup usage. Content would once again reign as the king, without question. That’d be a pretty good thing for all.

10 Responses to: “Web Semantics and Search”

  1. Dan Schulz responds:
    Posted: May 27th, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Very interesting. I knew this was coming, but I didn’t know it was so close. I wonder if PowerSet will be acquired by one of the major search engines shortly? (Probably Google, if recent trends are worth anything.)

  2. John Faulds responds:
    Posted: May 27th, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Yahoo are also making signficant moves in the area of the semantic web with their search monkey service supposedly enabling webmasters to tailor their own search results which look kinda similar to what PowerSeb bring back.

  3. Jason Marsh - Website designer responds:
    Posted: May 28th, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Will definitely be on the look out for this tool, thanks for the tip!

  4. Jay responds:
    Posted: May 28th, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Cool, I cant wait!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Steven Clark responds:
    Posted: June 9th, 2008 at 8:49 am

    After all, its only logical that if we want our content to be searchable (more intelligently) than the Googlesque pile of ever less relevant rubbish that’s currently being returned, we are going to have to make the data itself more semantic. Probably the biggest challenge facing search is the growing bulk of unsemantic rubbish out there - Rubbish in / Rubbish out. No?

    Interesting post. It will be interesting to watch this approach to see where it goes. In the end though, we’re all going to have to provide meaning at some point. I really don’t envy search researchers, look at the rubbish we give them to wade through.

    I guess the next step begins to look at context - who am I, where am I, what have I recently searched for? I’m very optimistic.

  6. Rob Mason responds:
    Posted: June 10th, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Does this mean that non-semantic sites could be excluded and/or penalised in the results?

  7. Jared Stein responds:
    Posted: June 24th, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Looks like the doors to information access are just opening…

  8. Stadia Studio responds:
    Posted: July 29th, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    I’m always intrigued by how need drives our advances in technology, and this is something that’s been a long time coming! Thanks for the info.

  9. SEO Results responds:
    Posted: September 12th, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Content is king and for this reason I wish that this will be implemented into search engines more. Links however must be a measure of a site, its like networking, its important for companies, people and websites to have credibility and links creates this.

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