How Yahoo! is defining the Semantic Web

Yahoo! has entered the Semantic Web with the announcement of RDF support in SearchMonkey . And leave it to a semantic web veteran like Peter Mika to be the one to make it happen.

SearchMonkey has become the inspiration for my latest cocktail-party answer to the question, "What is the Semantic Web?" (yes, I seem to spend a lot of time at cocktail parties. Well, in bars, anyway). A cocktail party answer has to be understandable and even engaging to someone who has already had two (or more!) drinks (not to mention comprehensible after I've had two or more drinks!).

So how does the story go? Suppose you type into google something you are interested in and a zip code (e.g., "cocktail lounge 94610"). You get a map of the area showing cocktail lounges, with a listing for each one of their web site, phone number, and maybe a link to some reviews. This is great, but for a cocktail lounge I'd be interested to see their hours (after all, who knew that The Alley doesn't open on Sundays?). What would it take to list this information?

Since each of these websites has opening hours somewhere on the site, a very clever scraper might figure it out, so that this information could be listed alongside the phone number.

But let's take a look at what's going on here - the lounges are willing to publish this data, and would even like to see it indexed. Google would like to show it. But the form of publication is made so that it is very difficult for Google to crawl the page and find it. Isn't there a way that a lounge owner could just tell Google what they want to publish, and have Google understand it?

Well, replace Google in this story with Yahoo!, and the answer becomes "yes!" And that's what we mean by the Semantic Web. When you build a web page, you can tell the search engine enough about what you mean that they can index it.

Even the drunks get why that is a good thing.