The Beginning of the Mainstream Semantic Web?
It is being reported that Yahoo will be indexing a wide array of structured metadata, including Semantic Web metadata. This will make Yahoo's search index potentially better than Google's, although it will also open their index up to sophisticated attempts to "game the system" as well that will need to be solved. But in any event, this will undoubtedly prod Google to begin indexing and making sense of structured metadata as well (actually, Google is already indexing FOAF, a Semantic Web metadata format).
I believe Yahoo's announcement marks the beginning of the mainstream Semantic Web. It should quickly catalyze an arms race by search engines, advertisers, and content providers to make the best use of semantic metadata on the Web. This will benefit the entire semantic sector and all players in it.
As they say, "a rising tide lifts all boats."
Where Twine Fits Into This Ecosystem
From the perspective of a company working on a large Semantic Web driven portal venture (Twine), and full platform for semantic applications (and search), this is good news. We'll be happy to open up Twine's content to Yahoo's index (when we go into General Availability in the summer timeframe, or maybe even sooner...). In addition, as more content providers add metadata to their content, it will make Twine's job of helping users collect, organize, share and discover interesting content, that much easier.
Where does Twine fit into the emerging Semantic Web ecosystem? Twine provides presence and content on the Semantic Web. It enables individuals and groups to homestead on the Semantic Web and get immediate value, without having to learn RDF.
Currently we are not going after the "be the search engine of the Semantic Web" opportunity -- we are focused on the "help users manage their information and connect with others who share their interests" and the "build thriving communities of interest" opportunities.
Our feeling is that incumbent search engines are probably best positioned to win the search engine of the entire Semantic Web war, when they decide to (as Yahoo just did, and Google most likely will soon decide to do as well...).
Twine is generating high-quality Semantic Web metadata about people, groups, topics of interest, and resources on the Web (Web pages, images, videos, books, products, documents, etc.). The metadata we are creating results from a combination of automated processing and user-contributions from our community.
The metadata Twine generates is then provided back to the users and community as open RDF that can be accessed and reused elsewhere. So we are effectively making a semantic graph of RDF about content around the Web, and related people, groups and their interests. Ultimately we become a semantic annotation layer above the Web. I can imagine that this is a dataset that Yahoo and Google and many others are going to want to be able to search.
The content in Twine is rapidly growing into a large semantic graph of information around people, groups and interests on the Web. We and our users are producing a large volume of high-quality original content and semantic metadata about existing Web content, that will undoubtedly make the Yahoo index much richer (and will drive traffic back to Twine and the sites we link back to from our graph).
The Semantic Web Eliminates Traditional Silos By Opening Up and Linking the Data
Twine is a hosted online service, but is not actually a "silo" in the traditional sense because all of our data is represented in open-standards-based RDF, and we are already providing access to that data on an experimental basis, and will provide even more via upcoming API's in the future.
This means that the data Twine is creating and gathering, is open, linked data, that can be reused in other applications and services. Ultimately this makes Twine a part of a growing distributed ecosystem. Semantic Web metadata in RDF and OWL is even better than microformats because it carries its own meaning about how to use it. Software that speaks RDF and OWL can instantly reuse it without any additional programming. To learn more about Twine's open RDF availability, see the Twine Tour: Semantic Web section.
I believe that the open-standards of the Semantic Web eliminate silos. Effectively all services that participate in using these standards and make their data open are becoming part of one big distributed worldwide database, rather than old fashioned silos. That's the benefit of open linked data services powered by RDF, OWL, SPARQL, and GRDDL.
How Will End-Users Participate in the Semantic Web?
If Yahoo and possibly Google make search better by indexing all sorts of metadata, there is then an even larger opportunity to help non-technical end-users create and use that metadata. This is where services like Twine fits in. End-users need ways to author, organize, share, reuse, and discover Semantic Web content.
We don't believe ordinary Webmasters or end-users are going to write microformats or RDF by hand. Even hard-core Semantic Web researchers don't do that. Ultimately end-users need user-friendly services that do this for them automatically, or at least make it easier to do. Twine helps these users to participate in the Semantic Web, without requiring them to have a degree in computer science. Twine provides an (increasingly) user-friendly hosted place where users can collect, organize, share and discover other interesting content around their interests, using the Semantic Web transparently "under the hood."
In short, Twine is where ordinary non-technical individuals and groups can join the Semantic Web, get a presence there, and start using it in useful ways, today. If Yahoo and Google become the search engines of the Semantic Web, that will make Twine even more necessary as the place where end-users can participate in this emerging ecosystem. We believe our community, and the rich the semantic graph we are growing will become increasingly valuable as the major search engines begin to index the Semantic Web.
But this is just the beginning of our story. Twine is designed to become a platform that others can build on and integrate with as well. There is more to our strategy than we have currently opened up about. In time we will be telling the rest of our story. We have some fun surprises in store in the future...