Steve Rubel Is Watching the Semantic Web

Question: How will the Semantic Web affect the Internet?

Steve Rubel: Wolfram Alpha is an interesting site right now. I don’t, I mean, it’s been kind of characterized as a potential Google killer. I don’t think it’s a, we’ll, we’ll watch that, you know, we’ll see how that works.

The bigger trend and I  think you’re talking about is what’s called the Semantic Web and I think that in it’s very, very, very early days right now. But when that gets going it could be huge and I think that’s three to five year, maybe even longer, time horizon as that gets going. So, the semantic web is really on a couple of levels and I’m just being honest with you, just beginning to get my head around it as well because it’s pretty technical right now. 

It’s the layering in of data inside of web pages that make it easy for machines to talk to machines and surface information for you that is relevant to what you’re looking for in a way that the current structure of the web does not, is not really capable of doing. 

And so I think that holds a lot of potential because on a very simplistic level, the search engines will begin to know what you’re searching for and will imply meeting based on personalization, based on your search history but also based on all those metadata of machines talking to machines. 

So, in theory, if machines start to talk to machines and is sharing information, the machines will be able to tell the search engines how they’re being found or vice versa to make searching smarter for you and more personalized so that content you care about finds you rather you having to go find it.

That’s I think the beginning of the promise of the semantic web but I’m not quite sure. I’m just starting to get my head around what the implications are for the PR and advertising community. I’m sure everyday but I feel like without I have some time because standards have to come into place, it’s very technical in nature right now. It’s pretty esoteric subject for a lot of people and the developers need to start to embrace it.

But the thing that was I telling you was that Google two weeks ago, if you have certain kinds of semantic data in your pages, Google now will start to recognize it. So for example, CNET has put star ratings for all the products they review into the code of their entire site, so now, if you were to go and you were to Google "iPhone review," in addition to the data about the page, you know, the center of the headline and the snippet. The snippet now is only have they call "rich snippet" that show you actually the star rating on the CNET Review.  And so I think that’s because, and so you know, I’m sure Yahoo and other folks like that will open up and begin to make a semantic data available so it’s just getting going but its potential I think is big.

Recorded on: May 27, 2009

Sites like Wolfram Alpha will affect both Google and advertisers.

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