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The web gets smarter with – how will you be affected?

06 June 2011 Posted by in category: future and current trends with Tags , , , , is a new initiative by the three major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo!) to make websites more readable for machines. It was announced a few days ago, accompanied by the website, aimed at web developers.

Machine readable?

Machines, like search engines and any other computer on the internet, can't understand the content of webpages. They can only present it to human beings to make sense of. There are several ways to make this content more structured, allowing machines to better 'understand' it.

The concept of adding meaning to webpages in not new. In a way, it has been around since the web was invented. However, the combination of lack of the right technology, and more importantly, incentives for websites owners to take the extra effort in making the pages more readable to machines, has left this field obscure.

Machine readability of webpages, called by some The Semantic Web, got a major push last year when Facebook announced about the Open Graph protocol. The Open Graph uses structured information in webpages to make better use of their content.

For example, presenting the correct image and name of a website when it is liked and added to a user's stream on Facebook. Facebook announcement of the Open Graph protocol caused lots of websites owners to add structured information to webpages, including some of the top ranked websites.

Now, an even stronger force – search engines – is taking this factor into account, officially.

How will you be affected

Web users

As a web user, you can expect new, smarter applications and extensions that use the structured information (like the demo-extension Creative Commons Laser Highlighter does). For example, your browser might be able to automatically detect events in webpages and ask if you wish to add them to your calendar.

People mentioned in articles could be detected and offered more information about, such as their profiles on social networks or other items about them from across the web.

Products showing up in webpages will be added extra information that was not written by the original author, maybe even a comparison to similar products in other websites. The potential is huge.

Google Recipes is an example of an existing service that takes advantage of the structured information in webpages. It offers faceted browsing, searching recipes by their ingredients, and more.

Websites owners

As a website owner, you should start thinking about enriching webpages with semantic information. Expected results include better recognition by search engine, potentially leading to more visits. These visits will be more focused, since visitors will be more informed about what they're about to see.

To sum up

I think that this initiative has a lot of potential, and I hope we will see its fruits soon. However, as great projects can fail (see the Google Wave case for example), you should exercise caution with decisions you take about your website's markup.

As users of the web, we only need to wait and see if indeed get's picked up by websites owners. I hope that within a few months I'll be writing here about new apps and services that leverage these new capabilities. 

2 Responses to “The web gets smarter with – how will you be affected?”

  1. Michael 6 June 2011 at 8:47 pm (PERMALINK)

    Very Interesting….Tks.

  2. Name 6 June 2011 at 10:10 pm (PERMALINK)

    proud of u