When semantic recommendations service Evri launched two years ago, the product (backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen) was seen by many as a type of search engine. Nowadays, Evri models itself as a topic-based news service; in particular, tapping into the real-time streams of mixed media coming from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sources.

At the recent Semantic Technology conference, I sat down with Evri CEO Will Hunsinger. He called Evri the "topical equivalent of a Facebook stream."

The technology of Evri is much the same as it was two years ago - it connects together topics using Semantic Web algorithms - but the landscape in which Evri is playing has evolved. In 2010, real-time information streams dominate. So Evri now aims to be a curation service.

In a nutshell, Evri allows you to explore and track topics. Its homepage displays a current hot topic (at time of writing, it was Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France), with other trending topics offered in the menu (for example 'Gulf Oil Spill' is a featured trend and 'LeBron James' is listed as "Trending in US & World'). You may also enter your own topic into the search bar. Evri is like a mix between Google Trends and Google News, with liberal sprinklings of Twitter and Facebook.

Whither Twine...

Evri made the news earlier this year when it acquired failed semantic web bookmarking application, Twine. Curiously, Hunsinger described Evri as "the inverse of Twine" - because Evri does all the work, rather than the user. Twine is an application that relies on its users to actively bookmark pages, a la the much more successful Delicious. Evri automatically collates topical information and presents it the user.

Update: Twine founder Nova Spivack wrote in and stated: "Twine was in fact highly automated as well, but in a different way than Evri - Twine used NLP [Natural language processing] to auto-tag every entry, generate summaries, and used graph algorithms to make recommendations."

Where Evri shares similarities with Twine is in the ability for users to track a topic. Hunsinger said that Evri users may "follow a story as it evolves over time, and tune it." He described this as being like a "mini blog" for its users.

Twine appears to have been of most use to Evri for its underlying technology. Hunsinger told us that Evri is using technology it acquired from Twine to extend Evri's categories and for advanced filtering.

What's Next

Evri is not short on ideas and innovation - for example it announced a Sentiment API last August. However some of these ideas are slow to eventuate. Hunsinger said that the Sentiment API is not in commercial deployment yet, because it requires much more media in order to calculate sentiment and it tends to work best with well-known people (like Barack Obama). However, Evri is working on incorporating data about shares, tweets, and more in order to beef up its Sentiment analysis engine.

The company is also currently working on what Hunsinger described as "Pandora-like recommendations," referring to the geographically-limited online music service Pandora.

Other expansion plans include launching one new channel per week, to extend Evri's topical coverage.

Can Evri Compete as a Consumer App?

Evri is an interesting product and is currently being used by media partners like Hearst and Canwest.

However, Evri will likely continue to struggle as a consumer offering. It's competing against a plethora of real-time news apps - everything from TweetDeck, Google News, Topix, Techmeme, and more. I wouldn't be surprised if Evri is eventually acquired by a big media company for its technology, much as Evri snapped up the struggling Twine for the same reason.