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Twitter, the new kid on the Semantic Web block

By   /  June 19, 2012  /  No Comments

Remember how search engines can show nice snippets in their search results thanks to the structured data that webmasters embedded in the HTML of their webpages (RDFa, schema.org, etc)? Additionally, Facebook gains insight about user’s interest through structured data on webpages (i.e. Open Graph Protocol). Now there is a new kid on the block: Twitter.

Twitter Cards

Twitter recently introduced Twitter Cards, a way to “attach media experiences to Tweets that link to your content.” By adding structured data embedded in the HTML of your webpage, “users who Tweet links to your content will have a ‘card’ added to the Tweet that’s visible to all of their followers.” Basically, Twitter will now have a bit more of information about your webpage in order to know how to make a nice snippet in a tweet.

Twitter claims three advantages by using Twitter cards:

  1. gives webmasters control on how the content is displayed in tweets
  2. drive traffic to sites and
  3. increase the number of people following a Twitter account through content attribution.

Twitter Cards are a set of key-value pairs in meta tags that are embedded in the HEAD section of an HTML page. There are three types of Twitter Cards: summary, photo and player.

  • Summary Twitter Cards are used to describe content on a web page (news, blog posts, products, etc).
  • Photo Twitter Cards describes the content of an image.
  • Player Twitter Card describes the content of videos and media players.

Each of these cards have a set of properties (twitter:title, twitter:description, etc) and the webmaster adds the value. For example, if I were to add a Summary Twitter Card to this blog post, I would add the following into the HEAD:

<meta name="twitter:card" value="summary">
<meta name="twitter:site" value="@semanticweb">
<meta name="twitter:creator" value="@juansequeda">
<meta name="twitter:url"
<meta name="twitter:title"
   value="Twitter, new kid on the Semantic Web block">
<meta name="twitter:description"
   value="Twitter announces Twitter Card and becomes the new kid on
   the Semantic Web Block">
<meta name="twitter:image" value="http://..../">

New kid on the Semantic Web block

I am going to claim that Twitter is the new kid on the Semantic Web block. In other words, we should welcome Twitter to the Semantic Web. In a nutshell, the Semantic Web is about publishing structured data on the Web and making sense out of it. Hopefully that data is published using standards (RDF, OWL, etc) and hopefully it follows the Linked Data principles (dereferenceable URIs that return RDF and link to other data). However, structured data in any form is better than no structured data at all. Twitter is asking webmasters to embedded structured data on their webpages in order for them to understand how to use the content.

And if you take a closer look at what Twitter is asking webmasters to do, it’s very similar to Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol.

“You’ll notice that Twitter card tags look similar to OpenGraph tags, and that’s because they are based on the same conventions as the Open Graph protocol.”

Twitter does not require webmasters to use the Twitter specific properties. They want to avoid duplicating properties and data, therefore they also understand the Open Graph Protocol properties. When a Twitter Card is processed, it first looks for the Twitter properties and if they are not found, they will use the Open Graph properties. In other words, if you already use Open Graph properties, then you are all set! This was an obvious choice because all sites on the Web should already have Open Graph data (right?). This is another demonstration that different organizations are willing to agree on independent vocabularies and schemas.

Some people may disagree with my claim, but I stand firm: Twitter is the new kid on the Semantic Web block! And we should make them feel welcome!

What do you think?


Juan Sequeda photoJuan Sequeda is CTO of Capsenta. He is also a Ph.D student at the University of Texas at Austin and a NSF Graduate Research Fellow. Juan regularly gives talks at the most important academic and industrial semantic related conferences such as the International Semantic Web Conference and Semantic Technology Conference. Juan has been an invited researcher at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid and the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. Juan is also the Executive Director of Semantic Web Austin.

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