The Semantic Web has long been on the radar of many people, as it offers a new and more accurate way to parse and understand data and content on the Web and a much more powerful way to build applications that leverage information on the Internet.
From the beginning, it seemed as if search engines would be one of the main beneficiaries of the Semantic Web, but for many years search engines have shown little interest in semantic technologies. Until now, that is.
In recent months there has been quite a bit of activity in the area of semantic search. A large number of both new (such as Hakia) and old (such as Ask.com) players in search have moved to introduce semantic technologies and capabilities into their offerings.
This makes perfect sense. Semantic technologies are essentially designed to greatly improve certain types of searches, especially those that are very detailed and research oriented. Through improved tagging, sorting, categorizing and query parsing, these semantic search players are making it possible to provide advanced search capabilities. Combined with Google's somewhat limited advances in search technology in recent years, semantic search options could give these players a leg up in competing with the search titan, or at least providing a viable option for search users.
Of course, these semantic search technologies are still very new. Some make no use of the actual Semantic Web standards defined by the World Wide Web Consortium, and some are barely semantic at all, essentially just using it as a marketing term.
However, those that are truly attempting to use semantic technologies to improve search are already demonstrating improved querying, categorization and filtering that make it possible to carry out detailed and successful search queries. As these technologies advance, 2009 could see more advancement in search technology then we've seen in the last five years combined.
Of course, other technology trends will rise in 2009, and some technologies that seem important now will start to fade. However, it's clear that in the coming year, these technologies will influence the direction of business, consumers and the Internet.
Chief Technology Analyst Jim Rapoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.