Friday, June 03, 2011 and some of my take

A recent initiation by the three leading search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo) made people excited, especially to the Semantic Web community. The initiation,, is a loose standard that declares supporting a common vocabulary for struct data markup on web pages. I simply type some of my take on this announcement.

First, it reveals the difficulty faced by the traditional search engines to further improve the quality of Web search. With the advance of the Web technology, webmasters inject richer content and more variety in data layout structure. It significantly increases the difficulty of the high-quality web crawling and thus the efficiency of Web search. The apply of the various SEO tricks increases not only the load of the webmasters but also the load of Web sense disambiguation. This new announcement simply shows that such a problem has been so severe that these major Web search players have to sit together and figure out a common platform to solve it for the sake of everybody.

Second, it is unusual for us seeing the three rivals sitting together so peacefully, especially between Google and Microsoft in the field of Web search, in the recent few years. If I use the eye as a historian to look at this unusual case, I would make a brutal claim that it is the sign that the peak of the glory of the traditional Web search engines (certainly including Google) has been passed. From now on, they can only walk downhill. Typically, the reach of a critical standard in a field represents the complete mature of the field. After the complete mature, the only thing left is decaying gradually.

Third, this method is not the ultimate solution. Certainly, however, the adoption of may ease the problem at some level. But it will not hold for long time. The real problem beneath is the debate whether machines can truly replace humans in answering genuine questions. Most of the regular questions, such as what will be the weather in Philadelphia next Wednesday, are certainly answerable through the optimization of the automated Web search methods. The others, such as what should I do when visiting Philadelphia, are essentially not answerable by machines because the understanding of "I" is so profound that even humans may not really know each other. To this type of questions, social search is not the solution either. We need some totally new invention to address them. The traditional search engines can only help us to the certain point and such a point has already been very close to us. The initiation of may lay that landmark 1000 miles further. But that is all about it.

The last but not the least, it is not such an exciting news to the Semantic Web community. By, the big three formally claims the support to microdata instead of RDF/RDFa. To the non-technicians, they may not feel much about the difference. To the Semantic Web technicians, however, it is a major loss because from now on more swing players are going to leave the more complicated RDF behind their back and embrace the simpler (of course less powerful, however) microdata. It is a major loss for competing into the field of real economy. Maybe eventually RDF may still win the battle. But it will take more years. And, everybody knows, timing to a Web technology is very critical!

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