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A More Semantic iPad?

By   /  July 28, 2010  /  No Comments

flipboardpix.png There’s little doubt that the iPad has been a revelation to the market – but like all revelations it’s been subject to its fair share of dings. Just this week, for example, news came that Apple is facing a lawsuit over a claim that the iPad overheats and turns off when left in the sunlight, and a study from consumer research firm MyType revealed that iPad owners tend to be selfish elites. And of course, there’s the whole shortage issue that’s been trying the patience of would-be buyers, too.

Well, here’s some better news for the must-have (even if you can’t get it) device of 2010: The iPad is going semantic. Sort of.

Turns out that the company behind the heralded new Flipboard application — which provides on the iPad a magazine-style app for browsing a user’s social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter — have acquired semantic web startup The Ellerdale Project. Flipboard is backed by outfits including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Index Ventures. Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey, Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, and The Chernin Group that includes Ashton Kutcher as a founder are reportedly investors, as well.

Seems we hardly got a chance to know The Ellerdale Project as its own entity (to borrow a term from the semantic web world). The aim of Flipboard acquiring the real-time semantic search engine, which applies semantic analysis to large, real-time data streams to extract relevant information, is to add “deep relevancy for our readers, enabling us to present social content in a way that is not only more beautiful, but also more meaningful,” according to a statement by Mike McCue, CEO and co-founder of Flipboard Inc.

Ellerdale reportedly so far has indexed over 6 billion messages from around the social web and currently processes nearly 70 million messages per day. Its technology and data set, which will enable it to serve in the role of relevancy engine for the next release of Flipboard, should lead to the app always surfacing the most important and personally interesting information from Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, the release about the acquisition reports. It goes on to say that, “with Ellerdale’s technology, future versions of Flipboard will be able to extract, categorize and feature highly relevant and hot trending content from across a variety of social networks.” Arthur van Hoff, co-founder of Ellerdale, is serving as Flipboard’s new chief technology officer.

Demanding Supply

Flipboard is rocking the iPad crowds – but like the iPad itself it apparently is having some supply and demand issues. Version 1.0.1 is now available free on the App Store. Users are able to download it free but according to the company, setup for the Facebook and Twitter sections for now is on an invite-only basis.

Terms of the Ellerdale deal were not disclosed, but by our count we’re heading closer to a double-digit number in terms of semantic web vendor acquisitions over the last few months. This may not be as big a deal in dollars or impact as the recent Google acquisition of Metaweb. Nonetheless, another buy in the space adds more weight to semantic web technologies as an increasingly important category to account for.

• Don’t forget to propose your startup for our Semantic Web Impact Awards. The deadline is Sept. 15.

About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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