When I started tagging in its early days, I was wondering about the silos it will end up creating due to the lack of any standardized approach to tagging. But, I also realized that tagging, however chaotic it could be, is better than not having one. The efforts on the Semantic Web front gave me hope and I was confident that we will one day get there and break all the information silos we have in this world. It is not just the lack of uniformity in the use of tag that bothered me but the lack of context was also troublesome.
Let us take the case of New York City. When people tag about this city, they use several tags such as “nyc”, “new_york_city”, “ny”, “newyork”, etc.. Such a disorganized tagging has only a limited value. Take the case of Jaguar. It can be an animal and it can be an automobile. The current day approach to tagging doesn’t offer any contextual information and we encounter more noise than signal in our quest to process information. Well, this is going to change now. Enter CommonTag.org. It is not the ultimate solution but the first step in finding an ultimate solution.
So, what is commontag?
Common Tag is an open tagging format developed to make content more connected, discoverable and engaging. Unlike free-text tags, Common Tags are references to unique, well-defined concepts, complete with metadata and their own URLs. With Common Tag, site owners can more easily create topic hubs, cross-promote their content, and enrich their pages with free data, images and widgets.
It is a culmination of the efforts by some companies with deep interest in the Semantic Web space like AdaptiveBlue, DERI (NUI Galway), Faviki, Freebase, Yahoo!, Zemanta, and Zigtag. They have come together to develop this open format and help break the silos that prevent humans and machines from making the content more useful in an efficient manner.
The Common Tag format is based on RDFa, a standard developed by W3C with wide ranging support from companies in this space, and states that
A piece of content addressable through a URL (a “resource”) can be “tagged” with one or more Tag structures. Each Tag can contain a pointer to another resource that identifies the concepts described by the content, unambiguously indicating what the content “means.” Optionally, the Tag may also contain information about when the Tag was created (the “tagging date”) and what human readable “label” should be used when listing the concepts covered in the content.
You can find more information about CommonTag here and find the specifications here. While talking about CommonTag, Peter Mika from Yahoo! Research emphasized, “Semantic tagging is an important next step in the evolution of the Web. When we add semantic meaning to tags, the content that is tagged becomes significantly easier for machines to understand. That in turn allows for the development of more intelligent applications for aggregating, searching, and browsing the Web.”
The following diagram clealy explains how various platforms and apps built by the founding companies of CommonTag.org can help in making the information more useful.
I use Zemanta and Freebase extensively for my blogging and research purposes. The release of CommonTag formats will motivate me to use the other apps that supports CommonTag and make the information I publish more useful. This effort is a good first step and I hope more and more vendors join this effort so that we finally organize all of the world’s information in a really meaningful way.
(Note: as always, we respect embargoes, which is why this post, written yesterday is only published @ 9am on June 11; and as always, there is somebody breaking the embargo, with or without permission.)