Monday, August 6

Semantic Web Progress: Radar Networks and MetaWeb

The recent news on Hypertext Solutions prompted me to check the status of two other Semantic Web based startups, MetaWeb and Radar Networks.

Radar Networks
First, a recent Business 2.0 article: Web 3.0: No Humans Required, finally provides some details on the application they are building:

The first consumer app Radar plans to launch is a sort of personal data organizer. It will allow you to bring in e-mail, contacts, photos, video, music --anything digital, really -- from anywhere on the Web, turn it into RDF, and access it in one place.

Semantic tags are added manually, or automatically if the item is a photo from Flickr or a video from YouTube. "We add a new level of order to connect and interact with these things at a higher level than is possible today," Spivack says. "We are letting you build a little semantic Web for your project, your group, or your interest."... When it's done, it should be like the best wiki you've ever used.

There is also a less thorough (and less accurate) BusinessWeek article. In the comments founder Nova Spivack clarifies:
Radar Networks is actually combining human and machine intelligence, leveraging social networks and user-generated content as well as artificial intelligence. We're not attempting to overlay a lot of new structure on the Web. We're actually trying to make sense of the structure that is already there. By combining the semantic web with social networks, a more powerful level of collective intelligence can be achieved. Our focus is not only on organizing information but also in helping people collaborate more intelligently around interests and activities. We'll be sharing more as we head towards our beta launch in the fall of 2008.
FreeBase (by MetaWeb)
FreeBase is a centralized, open, database of semantically tagged data. “We’re trying to create the world’s database, with all of the world’s information,” says founder Danny Hillis.

There is a recent IT Conversations interview with MetaWeb co-founder, Robert Cook. Apart, from that, there has been little news on FreeBase or MetaWeb in several months, but you can still read the March NY Times Article.

It exciting to see growth in this area evident in the phenomenal growth of mashups as people start using rss, xml technologies, and microformats to blaze the first trails connecting structured data across services. I will conclude with a quote from Tom Coates of Yahoo from the Business 2.0 article that captures it nicely,
"It's in the combination that the real power of this comes out. The mashup is an early example of the Web that is to come...The goal is the most important thing: reusable, repurposable, and reconnectable data. How we get there is not as important."
Yahoo Pipes is a platform for creating mashups; it is leading the way in this next phase of this development.

Whether specific technologies (RDF, OWL, etc...) are adopted is inconsequential in the long run. The promise of a web of data instead of mere HTML that can be combined and cross-referenced holds too much opportunity to go unrealized.

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