Yahoo Search and the Semantic Web

Yahoo has just announced a concerted effort around their upcoming open search platform to push open web standards including microformats and semantic web formats like RDF and XFN. By marking-up their pages using simple standards like hCard, hCalendar, hAtom and XFN, web sites can tell the Yahoo search engine more semantic meaning about the content on the page. Yahoo Search can then take that structured information to deliver richer and more useful results to users. In Yahoo's example below, microformats from LinkedIn are used to create a mini-profile with a meaningful layout, structure and related links.

In the announcement, Yahoo's Amit Kumar argues that "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." That's the question ReadWriteWeb's Alex Iskold raised earlier this year in Semantic Web: What Is The Killer App?. In this case Yahoo outlines just how wide a variety of standards they're looking at supporting:

In the coming weeks, we'll be releasing more detailed specifications that will describe our support of semantic web standards. Initially, we plan to support a number of microformats, including hCard, hCalendar, hReview, hAtom, and XFN. Yahoo! Search will work with the web community to evolve the vocabulary Framework for embedding structured data. For starters, we plan to support vocabulary components from Dublin Core, Creative Commons, FOAF, GeoRSS, MediaRSS, and others based on feedback. And, we will support RDFa and eRDF markup to embed these into existing HTML pages. Finally, we are announcing support for the OpenSearch specification, with extensions for structured queries to deep web data sources.

Lots of great things can come from this new standards-based model, although a natural concern is the inevitability of opening-up a new vector for spam. As we've seen with everything from email to web site meta tags, every opportunity to game the system will get used. Look no further than how Map Mashup Spam is done to see how mashups and APIs are no exception.

There will be a launch party at Yahoo's Sunnyvale headquarters in a few weeks at which Yahoo will be providing developers with tools like one to help build these "Enhanced Results".

And as you can see by the thread on TechMeme, this is a topic that gets people talking.

Be sure to read the next Standards article: The Universal Cloud Interface: Applying the Semantic Web to Cloud Interoperability