Yahoo Empowering Semantic Web, Programmers

Yahoo prepares to open its Search platform, providing programmers an alternative over the Google knows best approach.

Yahoo said it will soon provide APIs to its Search platform to let third party developers tweak search results with structured data and make them more useful for users.

The program will allow programmers overlay their own algorithms to determine how the Yahoo Search index is used.

To make programming on Yahoo's search platform more palatable, Yahoo is also supporting several Semantic Web standards, including RDF (Resource Description Framework) and microformats, wrote Amit Kumar, director of product management for Yahoo Search, in a blog post March 13.

Popularized by World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee, Semantic Web is a programming practice that makes it possible for the Web to understand and meet the requests of people and machines to use the Web content.

Programmers have been slow to both support standards and write software for the Semantic Web, partly because it's complicated and partly because there isn't a "killer app" Web site that publishers can use to lure consumers to their site. Kamur claims that killer app is Web search.

By opening Yahoo Search with support for the Semantic Web, Yahoo hopes to lure developers to write functionality based on the semantic Web to provide a better search experience for users.

Instead of semantic silos scattered across the Web, Yahoo will be pulling all the semantic information together when available, according to TechCrunch's Michael Arrington.

For example, Kumar said that by marking up its profile pages with microformats, LinkedIn can allow Yahoo Search to better understand the semantic content and the relationships of its site's components.

"With a richer understanding of LinkedIn's structured data included in our index, we will be able to present users with more compelling and useful search results for their site," Kamur wrote, adding that LinkedIn will benefit from increased traffic quality and quantity from sites that leverage its structured data.

IDC analyst Rachel Happe told eWEEK such efforts underscore why Yahoo believes it's more valuable than the $31 per share offer Microsoft offered for the company Feb. 1.

"If I can put an algorithm on top of search that says here are all of the things I want the algorithm to prioritize and here's all of the things I want it to exclude that's really powerful," Happe said, noting that this a departure from the "Google knows best" indexing approach.

"It shows me that Yahoo is finally coalescing their vision and starting to drive that out to the market in various elements of their business."

To be sure, since rejecting that original $44.6 billion offer, Yahoo has acquired video ad provider Maven Networks and unveiled mobile phone-oriented products, including oneConnect and onePlace.

Yahoo said in the coming weeks it will issue more detailed specifications about the semantic Web standards it plans to support, which will initially include microformats such as hCard, hCalendar, hAtom and XFN.

Yahoo Search will also work to build the vocabulary framework for embedding structured data, supporting vocabulary components from Dublin Core, Creative Commons, FOAF, GeoRSS and Media RSS. The company will also support the OpenSearch specification by creating extensions for structured queries to deep Web data sources.

Moreover, Yahoo will soon host a developer launch party at its headquarters. There it will launch a beta for a tool that developers can use to build "enhanced results" applications for the Yahoo! Search platform.

Those interested in learning more about the open search platform can go here.