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Web 3.0: Semantic Web Turns to the Mainstream

Web 3.0 and Semantic Web
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The industry may be coming to grips with the idea of Web 2.0, but some insiders are already looking ahead to the new technologies and new monetization strategies that they see as part of Web 3.0.

While Web 2.0 delivered innovations in areas like social networking and user-generated content, its next incarnation, revolves around the potential benefits and real-world examples of Semantic Web technologies, according to companies here at the Web 3.0 Conference & Expo. The conference is a property of Jupitermedia, parent company of InternetNews.com.

According to them, Semantic Web technology can improve the user experience and offer a better payoff for advertisers.

"We're all waiting for the killer app the Semantic Web is going to bring, but I don't think it's going to happen that way," Tom Tague of Thomson Reuters told InternetNews.com. Tague is project lead for the publishing company's Calais initiative designed to make all kinds of content -- like news articles, blogs, novels, scientific journals -- easily accessible from anywhere on the Web.

Rather than a "killer app," Tague expects Semantic Web technology will add a layer of functionality that will enrich the accessibility and relevancy of content.

In a "Tales from the Trenches" panel session, Tague and others discussed their implementations of Semantic or Web 3.0 technologies. Tague said it's a natural move for a publishing company like Thomson Reuters to want to engage technology that better enables the sharing of content. But that doesn't mean it's a slam dunk.

"I have this discussion with publishers, and they love how it sounds but they want to know how it's going to get them more clicks. That's our greatest barrier to acceptance," he said.

Tague said Reuters, along with publishers including the New York Times and National Public Radio, are starting to make a set of Application Program Interfaces (APIs) available, thereby making a portion of their content openly available.

"It's a first step," Tague said. "Reuters isn't going to open up a hundred years of content overnight. But two years ago, if you asked them to [freely] syndicate any of their content, they would have thought you were insane."

And if making more content available sounds like something that will contribute to information overload, Tague is quick to dispel that notion. "Web 3.0 is a great tool for possibly solving the information overload problem," he said.

He added that one of the main causes of infoglut today is that we're "atomizing" content -- breaking it down into shorter forms like blog posts and Twitter feeds. He said Web 3.0 is about having computers understand the content and provide users with only the most relevant information.

The advertising payoff

Google is best known as the world's biggest search engine, but it wouldn't have achieved anywhere near it's level of success without its keyword advertising system that delivers relevant, contextual text ads next to search results, while providing a steady revenue stream. Amiad Solomon, CEO of Peer39, a developer of Semantic advertising services, said advertising will also be key to driving Web 3.0's growth.

While a search engine can match ads to keywords results in a search, Solomon said the promise of Web 3.0 is that computers can understand all the content in a document and match it with a truly relevant ad.

For example, a nature article that includes mention of jaguars won't mistakenly place an ad for a Jaguar car if Web 3.0 is correctly implemented.

"A badly targeted ad is bad for the user and it's a bad for the advertiser," he said. "Web 3.0 is the monetization of Web 2.0."

Web 3.0 in action

Nick Grandy, CEO of Web 3.0 startup Wundrbar, said there is "a huge opportunity" with open APIs to make finding what you want simpler from any location. Wundrbar, currently in beta, offers a simple search bar interface to access your personal accounts, such as e-mail, Netflix, calendar and more.

"It's an intelligent, adaptive interface that knows who you are," Grandy told InternetNews.com. "You type in an address -- it knows it's an address. Or you type in "Cal add drinks 9 p.m." and it adds that information to your calendar. The idea is have that functionality available from wherever you happen to be."

The latest Wunderbr implementation is a Firefox browser plug-in. Grandy said the company is also working on an iPhone implementation.

SemantiNet, announced its first product at the Web 3.0 show. Headup is a new plug-in for Firefox that works with Windows and Mac OS X. The software displays relevant, personalized, real-time data, highlighted by a "+" symbol next to related content on a page.

For example, when browsing a music CD on Amazon, Headup can show a variety of related data, like how many of your Facebook friends like the band; a link to hear the band's latest music streamed via Pandora Internet radio; how many of your friends are using Twitter or Friendfeed to discuss the upcoming concert; and even find tickets for the band in your city.

The two-day Web 3.0 conference wraps up Friday.