There’s a new service built on top of the Dapper platform, a web-based interface that enables web site publishers and users to create structured feeds that can extract and reuse content from any web page.
The new service is dubbed Semantify. Now in beta, it works with Dapper to let users create feeds, called Dapps, whose fields are based upon formats such as RDFa, eRDF and various microformats, and then embed the code onto their web site pages. The semantically rich version they create of their web sites can then be indexed properly by semantically aware search engines — specifically, Yahoo’s new Slurp crawler. Users trolling via the Slurp crawler will get a slightly modified version of the web page — the page plus the semantic markup — while those using non-semantic search engines will retrieve the page in its “normal” state. While the service currently works exclusively with Slurp, Dapper says it could easily be extended to support other semantic search engines.
Why? According to Dapper co-founder and CTO Jon Aizen, exposing site semantics to the search engine should result in improved search engine optimization and in higher-quality traffic.
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“The primary advantage is that because search engines can understand your content better, they can expose it to users with more relevancy and with more targeting,” Aizen says. As an example, owners of diet cooking or recipe sites could more easily get hooked up with traffic that is looking specifically for recipes under 200 calories — vs. just being directed to sites generically featuring “low-cal” recipes that may come up because some publisher thought to optimize that as a keyword.
“But if I expose calorie information, the semantic search engine can find that. Or, users could also search specifically for chocolate as an ingredient rather than as a product. Adding structured semantics lets people drill down more specifically, and then you don’t have to worry about how you’ve optimized specific keywords; you just produce the web sites, and the search engines will provide the tools for users to find what they are looking for, and so your site may be exposed more frequently,” Aizen says.
And it may be exposed to more relevant users who want the content you have. “Just getting traffic on your site — you get a low-value from that,” he says.
Aizen thinks that what Yahoo has done is going to have a big impact, over time. “It’s not that people couldn’t use semantic versions of web sites before. The real question was, why bother? There was no incentive to invest time or money, because what benefit would you see. Maybe some eclectic person would use your feed, but now this provides a very clear incentive,” he says.
Semantify is just one of multiple applications that are built on top of the free Dapper service, including from third parties.
“A big part of our vision is to provide the infrastructure, cost-free at least to consumers and businesses, to be able to move content around the web in new ways and structure content,” says Aizen.
It’s making its money from the ad side of the business, effectively running an advertising network, charging for impressions and the like, based on its semantic mash-up ad business. One of the platforms built on top of dapper lets advertisers build more meaningful ads — for example, a supermarket running an ad on a recipe site could use structured semantics to create an advertisement that compiles the recipe ingredients, searches for them on its web site, brings the results into the ad, and shows users the shopping cart that results from that.
“The economics are great, because instead of an intrusive and distracting ad, it is tailored to what the user is looking for and at,” he says. “The cool power of the semantic web is that content becomes portable, easily accessible and structured, and then you can move it around the web and define new economies around the moving of that content.”
These days a lot of Dapper’s energy is going into building out the ad platform, but there are “a million” things the company wants to build on top of the Dapper service, Aizen says.
“We would like it to be a destination for people to come and use content in any way they see fit. We would like to build a marketplace for content. Today you can get access to content easily, but not necessarily the legal rights to access that content. We hope to solve the economic problem where a user or a company can get the legitimate right to use content in a way that doesn’t require him to have a team of lawyers and negotiate a contract.”