Thursday, November 27, 2008

GoodRelations allow Semantic Web to improve E-Commerce

Martin Hepp, a professor at Universität der Bundeswehr and also affiliated at the STI Innsbruck (original DERI Innsbruck), recently released a 15-min Webcast that introduces a recent work of the GoodRelations project and explains his vision on bridging e-commerce and the Semantic Web.

I have known Martin since 2006 when I was an intern under his supervision at Innsbruck, Austria working on the multi-million-euro MUSING project. Since then we have kept close relationship with each other and co-authored several papers. Martin is a sharp and kind scientist. With his dual background on business and computer science, Martin is passionate on improving the efficiency of e-commerce by the Semantic Web technologies. I feel glad to watch his accomplishment of the GoodRelations project.

In brief, GoodRelations "is a lightweight ontology for annotating offerings on the Web." A little bit more detailed, the GoodRelations ontology is a lightweight vocabulary that can be used for describing the details of offers made on the Web in a machine-readable way. In particular, it may allow users to specify the relationships between "(1) Web resources, (2) offers made by means of those Web resources, (3) legal entities, (4) prices, (5) terms and conditions, and (6) the aforementioned ontologies for products and services." The targeted users of this ontology include Web shops, product manufactures, and software developers. After briefly examining the content of the ontology, I must say that it is an impressive product and I look forward to more real-world use of this product in the future.

Back to the talk itself. Martin has emphasized the audience of the talk to be the general public. After having listened to it, I agree that anybody with some basic knowledge of World Wide Web can easily understand the talk without the need of any particular technology background.

One of the key points Martin mentioned in the talk is his view of the primary limitation of the current Web. He believes that "the loss of the data structure [of the data stored in its original source] over the Web" is the main problem. Because of this loss, it is fairly difficult for people to reverse engineer the displayed Web data into its initial structure. The Semantic Web addresses a solution to the problem by allowing Web data carrying its initial data structure when traveling over the Web. This is a very clear and convincing explanation of why we need the Semantic Web.

Why do the data producers need to care of this "overhead" of producing extra description of the data structure? This is a common argument against the Semantic Web. To the end, it seems that it is a user's problem in contrast to a producer's problem. Hence why should the producers spend their extra cost to produce the portable structure of the data when the effort seems not directly benefit themselves? Martin also provided a fairly good answer to this question in the talk.

Martin agrees that just by adding the semantic description to data it might not necessarily improve the ranking of the pages in search engines. However, the effort does provide extra support to the data producers because by doing so the pages may become more accessible to a wider range of queries, especially a wider range of "related" queries. It thus means connecting more related customers to the producers. This is why the data producers should spend their extra time and money to perform this technology.

At present, GoodRelations has been officially supported by the Yahoo! Search Monkey. I am impressed by learning this news from Martin too.

Anyway, the talk is worth of listening and the ontology is promising of use. Just check it out by yourself and try it if you are a commercial data producer. Please let me know how you feel of it.

1 comment:

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