Movie Reviews: The Google Semantic Web

Google’s Movie portal is an early version of an application area which will expand rapidly in the next few years: portals which extract meaning from the web.

I’m going to be the 2000th blogger today to mention a new Google feature. This time, the “movie:” search which links to a bunch of movie reviews.

This is less about movies and more about the semantic web. Listen to Bill Gross in a recent IT Conversations podcast talk about Snap’s features and you’ll realise there’s a lot more that can be done to basic search. For instance, here’s Snap’s MP3 Players Search Results. There is a nice comparison table which has (apparently) been automatically extracted from the web at large.

I expect this is where google wants to head. Go beyond relevance-based text search and extract out the meaning from all these websites into a useful portal of information. Movies for now, but could be cars or houses in a year’s time. Many comparison shopping sites have tried to do this, but it never quite works and is easily gamed. Google knows how to present data cleanly and has plenty of experience in not being gamed.

Clay Shirkey wrote some time ago about the semantic web, arguing that sophisticated protocols, well, won’t really do very much. There is a good argument that the information will work fine in fairly free form, with intelligent systems like Google able to piece together some meaning. A memorable quote from Clay’s article:

Dodgson’s syllogisms actually demonstrate the limitations of the form, a pattern that could be called “proof of no concept”, where the absurdity of an illustrative example undermines the point being made. So it is with the Semantic Web. Consider the following, from the W3C’s own site:
Q: How do you buy a book over the Semantic Web?
A: You browse/query until you find a suitable offer to sell the book you want. You add information to the Semantic Web saying that you accept the offer and giving details (your name, shipping address, credit card information, etc). Of course you add it (1) with access control so only you and seller can see it, and (2) you store it in a place where the seller can easily get it, perhaps the seller’s own server, (3) you notify the seller about it. You wait or query for confirmation that the seller has received your acceptance, and perhaps (later) for shipping information, etc. []

One doubts Jeff Bezos is losing sleep.

3 points, Shirky.