A Glimpse at Web 3.0: 13 Semantic Web Applications Reviewed

Web 2.0 was all about getting people to connect with one another and establishing a presence for them on the web. Now that you have gotten the chance to get to know each other through the web, it’s time for our computers to socialize. The aim of the next iteration of the web, Web 3.0, is that computers will be able to understand the content and the information they contain. Rather than the data just being a document, it will be put within context helping the computer to relate pieces of information and present them to you accordingly. Therefore, you will no longer have to sift through a pile of search results, some of which are irrelevant, to get the information you want.
While most of the semantic technology is still pretty much underdevelopment and improvement, we at the Thoughpick blog came up with a list to whet your appetite on, in no particular order.

For all the denizens…

  1. Bing‘s reference search – Bing has a lot of hidden gems, one of those is its use of semantic technology. For Wikipedia results, you can click on the “enhanced view” and browse the Wikipedia article with a nifty vertical menu from within Bing.
    Also some searches will provide you the option to “reference” search, which appears on the left pane.  By selecting it, you will be able to access relevant Wikipedia articles, image results and more. Try it out, some of the searches that trigger this are Facebook and squirrel monkey.

    Bing Search

  2. Wolfram Alpha – This is an interesting search engine. It recognizes your queries and will bring you relevant information regarding it. For instance, if you put “new york” you will get information about New York city’s population, weather, and location with a couple of other options at the top for disambiguation.
  3. Twine – The next generation of social bookmarking. Twine tries to understand your interests and comprehend the content that interests you. Then it will scour the Internet looking for similar content to recommend to you. The way it works is that you need to use it for a couple of weeks, bookmarking sites of interest or sending in any relevant email content and that will help Twine tweak your feed so that it contains recommendations based on your interests. And much more will be coming with Twine 2.0.
  4. Zemanta – Is a browser plug-in that analyzes emails and blog posts that you write by understanding the language used through semantic search to recommend relevant tags, links and related articles. If it wasn’t for the link spamming that it does people would’ve liked it a bit more.
  5. Google Squared: This is Google’s answer to semantic search engines. Basically instead of getting lists you will get columns of data with each cell filling up with relevant search results. You can add columns and search within cells, or add more items. Go over there and try it out. Do a  search of the “US presidents” for example.
    Google Squared

    Google Squared

  6. Tripit If you are a frequent traveler then this site is ideal for you. Tripit takes in your itineraries and your bookings and it creates for you a travel plan that can be shared with friends and colleagues. As an added bonus it also inserts a bunch of useful information like weather, maps and directions to help you make the most out of your time there.
  7. Swotti – Have you ever had to compare a couple of products and got confused by the mixed opinions you found on the web? Then this site is for you.  Swotti collects user reviews and opinions from the web and presents them in a comprehensible manner, and makes the comparison a breeze. Wondering what your next mobile phone should be? Go there and check it out.
    Swotti Camera Reviews

    Swotti Camera Reviews

  8. Juice – Juice is a FireFox plugin that might be the answer to compulsive obsessive googlers. Basically the way Juice works is that you highlight a word anywhere on the web and Juice goes to work finding you links on Wikipedia, Youtube and other relevant sites. Really helpful for looking up those little information tidbits.
  9. Inform – We all tried to view news as interconnected pieces of a bigger puzzle, here is a website that automates that process. Inform gathers the news from online media and information companies. It interconnects and relates news stories and subjects allowing you to have a deeper understanding of them and see the bigger picture.
  10. Siri (coming soon)- Remember how the future was depicted to be littered with computers and androids acting as personal assistants? Well Siri promises to realize that fantasy and be a virtual assistant that will help you get things done by asking her/him/it to.  It will be one more reason to get an iPhone.

For the techie in you …

A little bonus for the ones that like to dig in deeper:


Open Calais Analysis of this article

Open Calais Analysis of this article

  1. Reuter’s Open Calais – Open Calais is a tool that helps you generate the meta-data required to give your site the semantic edge. It uses nature language processing to tag and relate your content automatically, so give it a shot at Calais viewer and see if the results are to your liking.
  2. Triplify Is a plug-in for web applications that helps expose the semantic structures encoded in relational databases, or in other words “semantify” your web application. Definitely a helpful app when it comes to creating RDF files for your websites.
  3. Freebase – A Wikipedia for computers; while Wikipedia holds articles Freebase aims at collecting facts and statistics about items and making it available to web applications and people alike. You can use Freebase to create applications that can show you the time line of movies, songs or internet memes or you can create a “This day in history” app.

Are there any great resources that we missed? Which ones do you use? Is there any web application that you are looking forward to use?

Comments and Reactions

34 responses to “A Glimpse at Web 3.0: 13 Semantic Web Applications Reviewed”

  1. Amer Kawar says:

    I like Wolfram alpha, especially for mathematic equations – it just gives you loads of information and visualizations. Google Squared seems interesting, but it just didn't attract me like Wolfram Alpha did.

    I didn't like Zemanta, they spam every email and blog post with their logo and link, and that's not very respectful of them.

    Open Calais is great and they have a very generous API. Any developer with interests in linguistic or “semantifying” an application – not a real word but you got what I mean – should give it a shot.

    I need to try out some of the other services you mentioned. Useful post :)

  2. Beiruta says:

    I am so anxious to try out all these applications! They sound like a lot of fun and they seem to cut down on search time! I think Juice is the first one for me!

    Thanks for the great post! Very informative and useful indeed!

  3. Ethan says:

    Twine is a good one, but I don't like the idea that I can't manage my profile in details. That's why I use http://www.peepToday.com . This one retrieves news and videos around a profile I built with a kind of “semantic” database. You should have a look at it.

    I think I'll also give a try to Inform.

    Thanks for that post !

  4. M.Bamieh says:

    Amer I've been cozying up to Bing and now that they struck a deal with wolfram i think I'm going to like them more :)
    Beirut Juice is a gem and really helpful for splitting your screen into 2, hopefully you have a wide screen.
    Ethan Twine takes its time to adjust to your liking and the burden falls on you, But peeptoday while more easier to customize from the getgo its interface leaves much to be desired.

  5. A shameless plug. Please have a look at the virtual mediaspaces platform app in the screencast http://bit.ly/3aHVf. Its a RIA, Cloud Services based platform overlay that provides services to enrich information and social interactions across all social networks. It provides services to seamlessly integrate user generated content, video, audio, text, whiteboard annotations with information dynamically pulled in from a wide range of data sources based on the user's context. It uses OpenCalais with an Ontology of content types to enrich information through the addition of semantic processing that is packaged and tagged in sharable multimedia database that stores data as “content packages”. Sharing states can be set as “on going” or “recorded” and each users mediaspace can access other users mediaspaces and assume their content package states. A component called the “Informer” enables the platform to pull data from many sources across government, and business which a become feeds for semantic processing based users context. mediaspaces could be the perfect app to act as a real-time “data lens” for the government as a platform idea being proposed by Tim O'reilly.

  6. Ethan says:

    Well… I read that PeepToday was designed for iphone and I find the interface simple and easy on that device (but it's just my opinion !!!)

  7. Elliot says:

    For the techie folks out there, add AlchemyAPI to the list. This natural language processing service auto-tags any text or web content, generating semantic web meta-data (RDF, Linked Data, etc).

    Works in more languages (8) than any other service available today, and links to GeoNames, OpenCyc, Freebase, DBpedia and other Linked Data resources. Offers language detection and other advanced features not found elsewhere.

  8. kristathomas says:

    Great piece M., and thanks for mentioning OpenCalais. We've been busy ramping up the free service to keep pave with demand, and just today we’ve increased the daily transaction allowance for OpenCalais to 50,000 transactions per day – a 25% increase over our previous daily limit.

    Of course, OpenCalais continues to be offered at no charge for commercial or non-commercial use. You don’t need to serve ads, embed links you don’t want or anything else. All we ask is that you share your stories of how you’re using OpenCalais with the world.

  9. ranjitp says:

    Good round-up. Of the bunch, I find Open Calais and Wolfram|Alpha the most interesting.

    I'd like to add MashLogic to this list. We distribute a browser extension (Firefox and IE) that scans web pages and automatically adds relevant, contextual links based on your preferences. This brings a rich variety of information to your fingertips, reducing the need for a trip to your favorite search engine.

    The underlying technology uses semantic intelligence to extract terms and match them to appropriate sources, all in real-time. We've also just added the capability to peek through those inscrutable short URLs before you click on them — Safe Browsing.

    Try it out. Safe & standard add-on install (and uninstall) process.

  10. If i may, i suggest also a look at http://sig.ma . While today the data out there might not be just that much, there is probably already enough to get enthusiastic about the potential of Web Data aggregation.

  11. Anonymous says:


    Zemanta’s “reblog” button that we append in every post as to make it rebloggable can be disabled in preferences. Or deleted manually.

    Zemanta also offers an API for developers. You can use it to link any text with Freebase, DBpedia, Crunchbase, etc, categorize it, find entities…

    Andraz Tori, Zemanta

  12. Amer Kawar says:

    Andraz, I actually believe that this “reblog” functionality should be disabled by default. I know that it might seem like the best way to “virally” distribute your brand name, just like hotmail did with their one sentence adverts at the bottom of each email sent freely. But embedding it within longer-lifetime blog posts (compared to emails) is not preferable – to me at least.

    Nevertheless, you provide an outstanding and unique service. I need to play around with Zemanta API. Seems interesting.

  13. andraz says:

    Hi Bamieh,
    I am Andraz, CTO at Zemanta.

    Thank you for reviewing Zemanta in this list of great applications that will hopefully shape the future of the web in years to come.

    I am wondering as to what do you mean by link spamming? We monitor all the content we index for spam and try very hard to suggest only links to content that is original. If you got suggested anything you didn't expect please let me know the url.
    [on that note, I just added this blog to our global index, so it will be recommended to blog writers using Zemanta as a place to link to]

    Also to note, Zemanta is not only end-user application, it also offers an API access to its text understanding engine. You can send in text and get back tags, entities, suggested links and images and categories. More about the Zemanta API can be found at http://developer.zemanta.com

    Thank you again for this review and whenever you have any questions, let me know (andraz@zemanta.com)!
    Andraz Tori, CTO at Zemanta

  14. More for the techies:
    ontos.com – a European company that does linguistically-motivated and ontologically-guided text analysis. Send a piece of text to their RESTful API and get back triples about that text.
    In beta, it's a bit difficult to use (meaning I haven't fully succeeded yet).

    Look into Semantic V too. Compare its analysis which uses locality and clustering to analyze, instead of linguistics.

    Anyone know what's going on with Wolfram-Alpha's web service API. I just get errors “that service doesn't exist”

  15. I'm a big fan of Open Calais which makes it really easy for web site developers to participate in the semantic web. I have gone into more detail about deploying with Calais over at http://www.dynamicalsoftware.com/linked/data

  16. philip says:

    Great post glad to see the list and description of each. You should consider adding Raveable to this list. We semantically analyze hotel reviews and use sentiment analysis to make recommendations.

  17. That's a great overview. There's also http://portal.eqentia.com, a semantic news aggregation platform with a network of out-of-the-box business-technology topic portals. The rich faceted navigation and deep content harvesting are key features,- plus it's a customizable enterprise platform.

  18. cblab says:

    Cool! Nice list.

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  20. aka keronos says:

    thanks for this interesting overview

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  22. I'm looking forward to the emergence of the semantic web but at the same time wary of it's implications.

    In the same way many people already adopt the attitude – if it's not on the first page of Google it:
    1. Mustn't be any good
    2. Doesn't exist
    semantic engines will give a predetermined result (which can be altered by the technology owner).

    So, whilst on the one hand it offers untold rewards in terms of information access/retrieval and dissemination, it also offers an easier way to subvert social memes and meanings.

    Always a double edged sword…

    All the best,

  23. […] we are still in the early years of the Internet’s third decade, we are already seeing a lot of promising progress in making the semantic web a reality. Last week Oracle, a leader in enterprise level database […]

  24. NatMich says:

    Totally agree that Web 3.0 is about semantic web. There are some really great applications here that I've personally tried out (like Zemanta) and some that I would really love to check out. Great post!

  25. […] real-time going to beat the semantic web to the term Web 3.0? The term Web 3.0 is widely used and connected to the semantic web and its promises, but yet again, we seem to be standing in front of the real-time web, trying to […]

  26. VladimirA says:

    Open Calais is probably the my favorite. I honestly believe it has the potential for developing truely semantic applications. You have a nice list of applications here, though. Well done!

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  30. Pedro Dais says:

    Hi philip!
    Can you gime some tools exemples or some free API that i can use to biuld a aplication to extract sentiments ratios from text files?

    Pedro Dais

  31. How about Second Life?
    Do you see any implementations of that kind in Web 3.0?
    Or perhaps Web 4.0?

  32. Please give me more information. I love it, Thanks again.

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