When I first discovered RSS creation tool Dapper.net two years ago I knew it was exciting, but I couldn't figure out how to use it. I was surprised to find people talking about it at tech events who felt the same way. This was a tool that had huge potential but also stood on shaky ground in terms of usability, legal impact and thus long term viability as a business.

Two years later Dapper has become a service I depend on, it's enabled me to do a significant portion of my work as a blogger and a consultant in ways that nothing else can. Today the company rolled out a new service that will help its own bottom line. Web 2.0 is fast becoming a story of awesome tools that didn't find a large number of users and had to slink off into the shadows of advertising sales - reduced to polluting social networks and young minds with insipid pop-culture content that really ought not even exist. Thankfully, that's not the case with the newly launched Dapper MashupAds.


How Dapper MashupAds Can Save Display Advertising from Paul Knegten on Vimeo.

You can check out the new service here and sign up for access here. The first 200 applicants who enter "RWW" in comments will get an account.

The core Dapper technology lets users point and click to identify particular fields on any website, monitor that field for changed content and receive any new content by RSS. There are other web page scraping tools out there, but this one requires no technical knowledge to use and supports authentication (it will log into a website for you).

The new Dapper MashupAds are something we first wrote about more than a year ago. The idea is that publishers can tell Dapper: this is the place on my web page where the title of a movie will appear, now serve up a banner ad that's related to whatever movie this page happens to be about. That could be movies, books, travel destinations - anything.

As you can see in the videos on Dapper's site, the resulting UI has grown much more sophisticated in the past year. The basic idea though is still that the resulting ads will be far more contextual to a page than they would be otherwise.

Semantics on the Back End

In the back end, Dapper will be analyzing the fields that publishers identify and will apply a layer of semantic classification on top of them. The company believes that its new ad network will provide monetary incentive for publishers to have their websites marked up semantically.

Once all that semantic markup is spread far and wide, all kinds of other fantastic things will become possible. The example we like to provide is this: if you ask a search engine today to show you all the book reviews across the web that were written by friends of yours who live in England, no search engine could likely do that. Semantic markup will make that kind of search trivial.

In the mean time though, someone's going to have to make some money marking up the web. Dapper's MashupAds may be a way for them to do that, to become financially viable and thus to live on to support their higher vision of making granular data around the web portable and machine readable.

In a time when we keep hearing heart breaking stories of company after company that descends into the lowest common denominator of also-ran ad sales networks, abandoning their original visions in a cloud of muttering about brands and consumers - we're really glad to see that Dapper seems to have come up with a cool ad tech solution that's more interesting than insipid and that could keep their basic tool alive on the web.