John Abell of GMA News recently told the story of Summly, a company developed by 17-year-old Nick D’Aloisio and sold to Yahoo! for $30 million. Abell writes, “D’Aloisio’s youth—he’s 17—and windfall are interesting data points, even if all the work behind the magic algorithm isn’t the sole product of this high schooler’s brain. Like all really good ideas, Summly’s is simple: Anything can be summarized, but by having a computer do it,  the number of things you can summarize—and the speed with which it can be done—are massively increased. As an app, it filtered news stories and—Presto Chango!—spit out the CliffsNotes version, optimized for a smartphone’s tiny screen (and our infinitesimal attention span).”

Abell continues, “However cool it sounds to have an automated way of summarizing the news, it really isn’t all that exciting… The real value in Summly: Not summarizing the news. Summarizing the Internet. Here’s my wild speculation: Summarizing news stories was Summly’s proof of concept. It was never meant to be a consumer item but was field tested with its true purpose concealed: As a potentially game-changing search engine layer that could dramatically improve the relevancy and coherence of results. View Summly as part of something, The Semantic Web, just taking form. The Semantic Web is one in which we can ‘ask’ questions any way we want, and know that we’ll be understood. We’d communicate with the Web the way we communicate with each other, without any special rules about syntax or grammar apart from the common language we share.”

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Image: Courtesy Summly