As Linked Data matures across the web – courtesy of efforts such as that underway by the Linked Data Platform Working Group to mandate publishing data in RDF and to use the HTTP protocol, (see our story here) – anyone running a website is going to need to know how to manage it. That, says Geoffrey Bock, principal at strategic marketing and insight services firm Bock & Company, is going to make the popular Drupal platform for managing web content even more important.
Drupal 7 brought to the platform the ability to manage semantic metadata by incorporating RDF as a core capability, in a module that outputs RDFa. From the end user’s point of view the task of managing the metadata is made very easy through the familiar editing environment, says Bock. He will be co-hosting the session, How Drupal 7 Manages Linked Data for Smart Web Experiences, at the SemTechBiz conference in San Francisco in June. He’ll be joined by Stéphane Corlosquet, software enginner at Acquia Inc., the company co-founded by Drupal creator Dries Buytaert, which provides cloud, SaaS, and other services to organizations building websites on Drupal. Corlosquet was a critical force in bringing semantic web capabilities to Drupal’s core, with roles including being the maintainer of the RDF module in Drupal 7 a member of the Drupal security team.
Acquia will serve as one of the session’s Drupal-powered project examples to help answer the question: What can you do and what kind of systems can you build easily now that you have a very rich environment for managing all this semantic metadata right in the core? As part of providing its content in a structured manner using semantic web standards, so that other applications may understand its site’s structure and what kind of information it has, for reuse or querying, Acquia adopted some of the schema.org definitions, such as Person.
Acquia sees two benefits for search optimization from the use of the semantic metadata, Corlosquet says. “One is when you search on Google, Google has a better understanding of Acquia.com and knows for a given page whether we are describing a person or event,” says Corlosquet, so it can give better results and generate a better preview of them. Google, he notes, harvests structured data around the web to build its Knowledge Graph in order to enhance its search results. “The second aspect of this is we also have search results that we display on Acquia.com. It has similar smart use of the content in the search results.” If one of the results is a person – an employee – it can extract and display his picture, job title, and so on.
Corlosquet points out that to date, however, full advantage has not been taken of the metadata available – “in particular the search engines are not really displaying all the potential of all this data on the web.” The conclusion he draws from that is that the search engine vendors have more in store, and web site owners need to be ready for it. “They need to get their sites ready in advance, so that when the time comes and the big players deploy new applications, their site is in line and ready to be used and to be harvested properly,” he says. “Their sites will be the first ones to benefit vs. waiting until Google’s next product is ready and then jumping on the bandwagon. [By then], they’re late to the party.”
Other web content management systems offer plug-ins to help support managing semantic metadata. But, as Bock explains, Drupal’s competition primarily are first- and second-generation systems, designed simply around managing web pages and documents.
“Drupal, in my opinion, is an example of a third-generation web content platform. It no longer is an application but actually a platform that is a core part of the enterprise architecture,” he says. “That’s a very important evolution because content has become so central to the web. …It goes to the fundamental architecture of Drupal, which is a platform organized around content and actually content components.”
To hear more about how Drupal can help manage smarter web experiences, you can register for SemTechBiz here.