Home The State of the Market in Semantic Technologies

The State of the Market in Semantic Technologies

Tom Tague from Thomson Reuters’ OpenCalais team did a keynote speech today at SemTech in San Jose. His presentation was a wonderful wrapup of current semantic technology trends, and what we can expect over the next few years.

To open, he said that where we are now in the evolution of the Web is content rich, but information poor – plus “experientially deficient”. He suggested that ‘web 3.0’ is about cleaning up the mess of web 2.0 and improving interfaces. In terms of semantic technology, he explained that over the past 5 years it has evolved from invention of standards to a period of commercial innovation on top of those inventions. While standards are still being worked on, now “we are at an inflection point where innovation is exploding.”

Tague called Calais, the project he leads at Thomson Reuters, “a web service a.k.a. plumbing”. They’ve had 13 releases, talked with 100+ customers about Calais, have 13,000 registered developers. He put the ideas that he’s been talking about with customers and developers into 6 buckets, which we’ve listed with sub-categories below.


  • Semantic data mgmt
  • Semantic data generation
  • Databases
  • Integration and workflow

Tague said that tools are important, particularly in the enterprise. He sounded a note of caution to tools vendors: they need to simplify their stories, along with have “simple basic tools.”


  • Semantics-powered link sharing
  • Network mining
  • News sharing
  • Tweet mining

Tague said that we shouldn’t focus on providing “frosting” on top of current social Web tools. He advised to focus on commercial imperatives, such as the categories above.


  • Semantic ad placement
  • Contextual ad placement
  • Semantically driven landing pages
  • Mashup ads

There are clearly opportunities to improve advertising using semantic technology, said Tague.


Tague noted that semantic search may be “the answer to the question nobody is asking.” He said that we should look at general “semantic search” vs domain specific semantically-enhanced search. The latter is where the commercial opportunity actually is, but he questioned the economics of general semantic search.


He put this into 3 sub-categories:

  • A-Content Producers – from back office to user experience
  • B-Editorial + Aggregation Publishing Models
  • C-Robotic publishing – aggregation only

Tague explained that Calais has really focused on this over the last 8-9 months. He said that classic publishers can get an enormous amount of value from this. Right now the big focus is “back in the bolier room,” for example to cut editors from 3 to 2. He expects that later on more focus will go on enhancing the user experience.

Tague thinks that B is the biggest opportunity, using Huffington Post as an example. He said that it gives a “near newspaper like experience” at perhaps a 5th of the cost. It’s an area where they’re seeing adoption of Calais.


Tague noted that gaming is a huge industry that the semantic technology industry can learn from. He listed these attributes:

  • Great story line
  • High interactivity, immediate responsiveness
  • No interuptions
  • Graphically engaging
  • Seamless
  • Fun

So he asked who out there is trying to really change the user experience in semantic technology? He listed 4 companies (all of whom we’ve profiled on ReadWriteWeb):

  • Zemanta
  • Apture
  • Feedly
  • Glue

Tague told the audience that the next big innovation in interface will be something that stays with the user where they are, which will be mobile and in the browser.

To sum up, Tague suggested that semantic technologies vendors should decide whether they care about semantics or about user value. If it’s semantics, then be a tools vendor. He said the basic building blocks are out there already, so focus on user experience.

Disclosure: SemTech has been a recent sponsor of ReadWriteWeb

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