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Come Together: Schema.Org and Web Intents Make For Win-Win Opportunities

By   /  July 10, 2012  /  No Comments

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What do you get when you partner up the Schema.org markup vocabulary and the Web Intents specification? A win-win both for content publishers and search engines, says Dr. Michael Hausenblas, Linked Data Research Centre, DERI, NUI Galway, Ireland.

Hausenblas this week wrote about the “awesomeness” of connecting the two, describing how a search for a camera marked up using the schema.org vocabulary also could serve up a wave of Web Intents actions (existing and new ones) to take on the object. That could range from reviewing it to buying it.

“With Schema.org we have a way to describe the things we publish on our Web pages, such as books or cameras. And with WebIntents we have a technology at hand that allows us to interact with these things in a flexible way,” he wrote. With Web Intents, a framework for client-side service discovery and inter-application communication, services register their intention to be able to handle an action on the user’s behalf.

Speaking with the Semantic Web Blog, Hausenblas explains how the win-win happens: “Content publishers have an added incentive to use semantic markup there, not just to be better-ranked but to make their content more interactive,” he says. “And it’s a huge thing for search engines, as users can directly interact from them.”

Perfect Together

Google developer advocate Paul Kinlan initiated the Web Intents project back in 2010 as a way to allow developers to build applications and services that could work with each other, but not need to explicitly know about each other. It now is being developed in a Web Intents taskforce at the W3C in combination with the public-webapps and DAP group as a specification for user-initiated actions to be performed by a service.

As it is described, Web Intents provides a declarative syntax that allows services to list the Intents they handle; using this method, services mark up what actions they can handle and which data types they expect. Intents have included discover, share, edit, view, pick, subscribe and save – actions that can generally be taken on online material such as web pages or blog posts or videos.

The new thing in terms of schema.org, Hausenblas says, is that it provides terms for content of every kind – people, books, and so on, so that actions can go beyond the original focus of Web Intents. The key point, he says, is that with certain types of entities – real-world ones such as books, for instance – other interactions – such as buying it – are possible, in addition to the things you can do with web material, such as sharing it with friends.

Some of the simple things, like sharing actions around a particular tagged entity, can probably be easily implemented and will soon be available. But, “depending on the complexity of action, a bit more effort is probably going to be necessary,” he says. “For buying something, for example, you probably need a bit more thought into things like security and such.”

Hausenblas has begun a proof of concept for mapping Schema.org terms to WebIntents, for which there already is a W3C Wiki page that discusses passing schema.org data through WebIntents. He’s been a supporter of Kinlan’s work since he discovered it about a year ago, he told The Semantic Web Blog. A few days ago it was announced that the Web Intents code lab was online, and also posted was the recent Google I/O 2012 session, How to Build Apps that Love Each Other with Web Intents, that was hosted by Kinlan and James Hawkins, the tech lead of the Chrome team working to bring Web Intents to the web. Kinlan, says Hausenblas, “did a great job convincing people in Google to implement this in Chrome, and now with the W3C, Web Intents has more momentum.” Hausenblas notes that with Kinlan’s help and a few days’ more work, something could come out of the proof of concept that could make the rounds internally at Google, with next steps to be decided from there, such as moving the effort to a public vocabulary working group.


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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