By David Peterson

Semantic Web or: why Yahoo! resisted Microsoft’s takeover

By David Peterson

With the recent announcement from Yahoo and subsequent flurry of posts that followed, something became clear to me. Yahoo! didn’t accept Microsoft’s offer because it had an ace card up its sleeve. Semantic technology.

With this sort of tech, who needs Microsoft or even Google for that matter? Yahoo! is positioned to leapfrog what has been possible in a Web 2.0 world. I have previously blogged about Peter Mika’s launch of microsearch which was a test bed for the upcoming SearchMonkey launch. SearchMonkey will allow for global scale and fast access to almost all forms of metadata on the web.

In a post last month I mused that Yahoo or Microsoft might be the first to embrace the Data Web/Semantic Web. It is now clear that Yahoo! has taken the lead in the war for the next generation of the Web.

Linked data is king

Yahoo! maintains a large network of content. Flickr is the most used photo sharing site on the Web. With a flip of the switch (well, maybe a bit more complicated then that) all of Yahoo’s content could become a giant graph ready to be semantically mined by SearchMonkey. This is a huge strategic benefit to Yahoo, something Google nor Microsoft could match.

Overnight, Yahoo could become the biggest linked data client in the world — Ready to plug into the next generation of web sites like Twine, Dbpedia, Freebase, Revyu and every installation of Drupal 7 (due next year, thanks Dries).

copyright wikipedia

The execs at Yahoo! have to be really loving this stuff. More accurate search results, more finding of what I want — all for free. Just by using a little thing called RDF and embedded metadata like microformats and RDFa. And us poor saps are going to be doing the work for them :)

I can just hear them now (even from my little corner of the Queensland coast) repeating the immortal words of the A-Team’s Hannibal…

"I love it when a plan comes together"

  • Mark Birbeck

    Hi David,

    In my view, you can’t hope for a viable semantic web without being able to publish metadata as easily as you can publish a blog, and although it’s taken too many years to get there, with RDFa and Microformats we are finally there.

    But you also can’t hope for a viable semantic web until you can search for that metadata. Unfortunately, without RDFa and Microformats you’re left Indexing RDF/XML files which the the Googles and Yahoos were never likely to do, as long as the return was so difficult to see. It’s also difficult to see someone else doing it in a viable way, as long as the amount of content in those RDF/XML files remains a sub-set of the web universe.

    However, put these two together, and you have an exciting proposition. Indexing HTML files is what the search engines are good at, because that’s their job. So to dig out any metadata they find is not such a big step for them.

    And more than that, since the publishing model for metadata is increasingly going to be the same as for publishing any other web page, there will be a lot more data available for the search engines to index, making it a lot more worthwhile to do the indexing.

    As you say…isn’t it great when a plan comes together. ;)



  • Great post David. I think when it comes to leveraging their own content Yahoo obviously has an advantage, and they own a lot of it as you say so they’re going to be first out of the gate. However looking further out once the publishing model for metadata is widely adopted Google will have the upper hand. Google have proven to be the masters of “organizing the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” after all. Time will tell.

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