Schema.org and the Financial Industry Business Ontology (FIBO) are teaming up to bring more semantics technologies to a greater audience. Enhancements to the core of the proposed Release Candidate 3.0 of the Google-, Microsoft-, Yahoo- and Yandex-sponsored community activity to create a shared vocabulary for marking up web pages will include contributions from the business ontology developed by the EDM Council. By the time you read this, schema.org version 3.0 should have been published.
The FIBO proposal for the Schema.org core includes basic terminology around financial products, adding:
- MonetaryAmount (to supersede DatedMoneySpecification)
Originally, the idea was to treat these as hosted extensions for the financial industry domain, in much the same way that bib.schema.org is a sub-domain for bibliographic resources and the library sector. But, the decision was changed to move these terms to the core because of how germane they are to the public and businesses at large, and not just to the financial institution industry alone. Adding these to the general shared vocabulary for structured data markup on web pages can enrich search results for all the major search engines, as well as further source Google’s Knowledge Graph with entities that feed rich snippets, answer and info boxes, and knowledge panels.
“People talk generally about bank accounts, financial products, and monetary amounts,” says Richard Wallis, independent consultant, evangelist, and founder of Data Liberate, who works with FIBO as well as with Google on Schema.org. Consumers have bank accounts; financial products are important for car dealerships and their auto loans; kiosks at airports handle currency conversions; and, everyone employed by a company gets a salary statement, for instance.
A little further down the road, perhaps a couple of months out with the next Schema.org release, the world likely will see the debut of the financial institution/banking focused hosted extension, fibo.schema.org 1.0. It initially will cover terminologies that are more detailed and specialized to the sector, including BrokerageAccount, InvestmentFund, MortgageLoan, RepaymentSpecification, ExchangeRateSpecification, and BankTransfer. “The whole of FIBO is too fine-grained to go into the schema.org core,” Wallis explains. So the hosted extension will annex to the core vocabulary – living on the Schema.org site and using Schema.org identifier URIs – but be corralled together so that they’re easily findable by experts in the financial domain.
Future enhancements are planned to this, with Wallis expecting to see two or three iterations over the next few months. “But this is ready to fly now,” he says.
In fact, fibo.schema.org 1.0 extensions already are in use. The Banc of California, for example, is embedding vocabulary pertaining to lending on its web site.
“With this data embedded it is delivering to Google descriptions of its full specific [loan] entities,” Wallis says. “They now actually have entities to drop into the Knowledge Graph. That’s really detailed structured data now being delivered instead of just amorphous text that any search engine gets.”
During Enterprise Data World 2016, Christopher Regan of Caliber Media Group mentioned other financial firms getting on board applying its fibo.schema.org-compliant code on their pages, as well, including Bank of the West and Cita Insurance. “It’s the future of the web publishing standard for the financial industry,” Regan said.
More FIBO Extensions to Come
Also be on the lookout for external extensions to come from a working group currently going under the banner schema.fibo.org. The first officially recognized external extension for schema.org was the GS1 Web Vocabulary. There is some divergence between the GS1 terminology and schema.org’s, but the GS1 Web Vocabulary takes a common approach that builds upon the core vocabulary of schema.org and upon underlying foundational standards from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) such as JSON-LD.
External extensions, then, can leverage Schema.org as a basis or close reference, but they are not controlled by schema.org. They are separate and almost certainly more granular than hosted extension or core Schema.org vocabulary. “They are building a detailed ontology or set of them to describe every bit of data you find inside the financial world,” Wallis explains of the working group’s effort on external extensions. “The extension takes fine-grained details used inside the industry and exposes it in a way that it could sit with compatibility with Schema.org in the outside world.”
Potentially, these terms might be used only on intranets, or may serve a purpose on banking industry sites for pickup by other banks or intermediaries rather than search engines. The arrival of these external extensions, in any case, “settles concerns of how we bridge from detailed FIBO to more externally consumable Schema.org oriented FIBO,” he says.
Fitting into a New Web Vision
Schema.org is a success – no two ways about it, according to Wallis. Over 12 million web sites were using it as of the end of last year, and 30% of web pages have schema.org markup. Companies in the financial industry, library sector, and auto, medical, and media – which either have made general additions to the Schema.org core or developed their own hosted extensions or both – and businesses of every stripe need to start paying even more attention to Schema.org if they haven’t started to dig in yet.
“If you want your data identified and consumed on the web it needs to use Schema.org,” Wallis says.
Not only are Schema.org new core proposals for it and hosted extensions to it integral to the Knowledge Graph, but Wallis says that they also are core to the new direct access web and to marketing right to where users are. Yes, users still are searching and receiving a list of search engine link responses to their searches and clicking on those links to discover information. But, they’re also finding they can get answers even more fluidly from searches on more devices and across more interfaces as more data is structured following the example of a de facto web vocabulary. When banks use the FIBO hosted extension vocabulary to Schema.org, for instance, Google could tap into that to provide answers from the banks to users’ questions about a mortgage loan without consumers ever having to touch the bank’s web site. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Consider, for instance, that consumers today are interacting in conversational search with parties like Siri, searching for and receiving information just through voice interaction.
“The selfie generation doesn’t think of the web as happening on a web site,” Wallis says. “The search engines are adding to their traditional search the ability to interpret people’s questions, to identify entities in them, so they are far more likely when giving an answer to a user to take him directly to it.” To be represented in those answers requires participating in implementing Schema.org. The financial community recognized that, and seeing that it wasn’t as well represented there as it needed to be, took steps to increase its visibility and usefulness for practical applications. It’s now preparing itself to accommodate groups like the new wave of millennials on its way to college, individuals who are quite comfortable with verbally asking a search engine to find them the loan that meets their needs and the bank that will offer it.
“The new next-generation era is about what’s happening on the Knowledge Graph, about voice-based conversational search, about Google’s RankBrain AI, and they rely on data to describe and connect entities,” Wallis says. “They’re built around many components, and a key one is Schema.org.”
Wallis adds that tooling providers need to make the connection about the importance of Schema.org for their customers, too. Today, most schema org code is handcrafted, and some web site and web blog plug-ins out there that have tried to automate it aren’t always appropriate for particular needs. “Tool providers need help in this, SEO companies need help in this,” he says. Some companies, like Caliber Media, are figuring things out, he says, but many others “need to learn what a new web looks like.”