Silk is launching in open beta today (May 10). The service for applying semantics to create more powerful web sites, which we last discussed here, moves out of a private beta stage that the company says saw more than 10,000 users.
“A lot of the sites during the private beta were, well… private, so we can’t go into details about those,” says Sander Koppelaar, head of operations. Countries of the World, with all United Nations member state information, is one public Silk-powered demo web site for those who’d like to explore one. Generally speaking, he says there’s been a wide variety of use cases, ranging from professional publishers and data journalists to businesses and even personal use. “Publishers have used Silk to interpret data sets such as deadly traffic accidents, house sales and MBA rankings.
We see sports applications, such as a Silk site around tennis players and their performance. Many people use Silk as a replacement for MediaWiki’s Video game guides, [so it turns] out to be a significant vertical there,” he says. “But there are also businesses or people simply tracking ideas, software bugs or their favorite restaurants. It’s just very diverse.”
Leading up to the open beta have been some updates of the technology. For example, it delivered collaboration enhancements so that Silk site owners could invite additional editors or viewers to work on or have a look at their sites. But it also created a new design, something Koppelaar told The Semantic Web Blog was getting on the agenda during our last discussion.
“We updated the general look and feel of both our brand and our product. The design is cleaner and simply more calm,” he says. “We guide the user in a better way, emphasizing the actions that are more common and deemphasizing others. Our goal is to minimize the time users need to spend with Silk to have a great Silk experience. This is an ongoing effort”
There also has been some effort on another previously-stated goal, that of expanding the service’s visualization capabilities. The best examples of this, Koppelaar says, are the updated maps component and a new image slideshow component. “The new maps component is able to display numeric data as circles, where the size represents the number,” he says, pointing to this example at the bottom of the page. “The image slideshow is able to display tagged images in a nice way.”
Both, however, are still fairly basic compared to what the service ains to show in the future, he says. Additionally, the company has added a CSV importer to take every row in a CSV file and turn it into a Silk page.
Silk has yet to publicly release its API, which can enable capabilities such as reviewing the contents of specific pages and running queries to retrieve specific information, so use of that has been limited apart from the fact that the Silk web client itself uses the API. That said, Koppelaar says the company has seen some interesting cases.
“We have seen the API being used to import data from various sources: MediaWikis, JSON data and even Facebook friends. Another nice application was by the organizers of a TedX event. They use Silk as their event website and have built a mobile app that reuses the Silk content and formats as a web app with a totally customized look and feel,” he says.
Users can sign up for Silk here.