RealTime IT News

Twine Ties Semantic Web to Social Bookmarking

There are plenty of places online to dig up the latest on your interests -- by connecting with like-minded people through social networks like Facebook and MySpace, or by scouring social bookmarking sites like Delicious. But is there a need for more direct access to specific interests -- having the Web serve you content like an online butler?

Radar Networks has been working on just such a service. This week, the company launched the version 1.0 release of Twine, its "interest network," which it describes as the next step beyond social networks. The idea is that it focuses not just on who you are interested in, but what -- helping users gain access quickly to relevant content found and shared by others.

"It's easy to create information, but it's hard to reduce it. We're about finding the signal in an increasing noisy world," Nova Spivack, Radar Networks' CEO and founder, told InternetNews.com.

Twice's core capability comes as a result of Radar Networks being an early user of Semantic technology designed to make the Web more accessible. That technology helps Twine sort through reams of bookmarked or shared online content and categorize it according to users' interests.

So far, the company seems to be reaping the results. Radar Networks said that during Twine's beta testing phase, more than 50,000 users used the technology to create more than 20,000 groupings of shared public content -- like group messages, videos, documents, photos and Web bookmarks -- that the company calls Twines. Their Twines include topics like Humor, Financial Crisis, Alternative Medicine and, the largest one of all, Cool.

A user can create a Twine to collect, organize and share content around a subject. In addition, Twines can be designated public or private, available to individuals and/or groups of any size, the company said. Among other content, the service's main site features the top 100 Twines.

This week's 1.0 release builds upon earlier versions with a streamlined interface and feature set designed to pare down and focus on Twine's strengths. Spivack admits that when his company first launched, it tried to do too much. "We dropped most of the social network features that people can get elsewhere and narrowed the interface," he said. "We're now about keeping up with your interests, full stop."

Early reaction to the launch is positive among industry watchers.

"The new release has come a long way," said Guidewire Group senior analyst Carla Thomson. "What they have is a fantastic Semantic technology they needed to build a consumer-friendly product around, and I think initially they struggled with usability issues," Thomson told InternetNews.com.

Thomson gives the 1.0 release high marks for accessibility to new users. "What I really like is that without signing up, you can plug a couple of interest areas in and it will fill up an interest feed for you. Not a lot of social media services do that for you automatically; you have to do a lot more work," she said.

Spivack said an update in November will use natural language processing to provide each Twine or group with a personalized search engine based on interests.