Yahoo Search takes aim at Semantic Web

Adds support for Semantic Web standards and opens search engine to third-party developers

Yahoo this week announced that it will support various Semantic Web standards in its new Search Open Platform, the latest move by the company to embrace the emerging Web framework. The company also disclosed more details about its plan to open its search engine to third party developers.

Yahoo said that its support of standards like microformats and RDF, or the Resource Description Framework, are aimed providing users with better search results by improving the understanding of content and the relationships between content.

For example, the new Web standards would ensure the inclusion of pertinent data, such as a person's name, location, current job specialties, number of contacts and a link to get introduced to that person, to a LinkedIn profile found via Yahoo Search, the company noted. "With a richer understanding of LinkedIn's structured data included in our index, we will be able to present users with more compelling and useful search results for their site," noted Amit Kumar, director of product management for Yahoo Search, in a blog post.

"While there has been remarkable progress made toward understanding the semantics of web content, the benefits of a data Web have not reached the mainstream consumer," Kumar blogged. "Without a killer semantic Web app for consumers, site owners have been reluctant to support standards like RDF, or even microformats. We believe that app can be Web search."

Yahoo also announced that it will launch a beta tool to let third parties add data to Yahoo Search results within several weeks. Using this tool a restaurant, for example, could add reviews or other data to Yahoo Search results for queries about the eatery. Developers can build enhanced results applications by accessing structured data that Yahoo will make available through public APIs and in its index. The structured data is available to Web site owners through feeds or the supported semantic Web standards, Yahoo said.

Michael Arrington, a blogger at TechCrunch, wrote that Yahoo's announcement means "we can expect the Web to get itself organized in a hurry. At stake is a significant amount of traffic from Yahoo search, and anyone that may choose to build applications on top of this data."

In addition, Yahoo's support for semantic Web standards like RDF and microformats is the incentive Web sites need to adopt them, Arrington said.

"Instead of semantic silos scattered across the Web, Yahoo will be pulling all the semantic information together when available, as a search engine should," he added. "Until now, there were few applications that demanded properly structured data from third parties. That changes today."

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