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Yahoo supports more semantic web standards

There’s an article on TechCrunch about Yahoo offering support for a number of microformat standards.

They are saying that they will support a number of microformats at the start: hCard, hCalendar, hReview, hAtom and XFN. They will support vocabulary components from Dublin Core, Creative Commons, FOAF, GeoRSS, MediaRSS, and others. They will support RDFa and eRDF markup to embed these into existing HTML pages. Finally, Yahoo will support the Amazon A9 OpenSearch specification with extensions for structured queries to deep web data.

I replied to the post at techcrunch and will repost it here – I thought I’d change something, but I’ll just throw it out here for now for discussion.

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I’m a bit more reluctant to believe the hype or promise of this. There are technical and human hurdles to deal with – semantically marking up data is hard, and humans can still get things wrong. Yahoo will still need to put in ‘best guess’ algorithms and such to compensate.

But the bigger issue is why would someone like linkedin semantically mark up all their profile pages, at least for public consumption? It makes it that much easier for competitors to come and take away the one set of data that makes linkedin unique – the relationship data they have about their users. For me, what makes linkedin linkedin is the set of relationships (and to a lesser extent, what tools linkedin provides to exploit those relationships).

Adding semantic markup to linkedin profile pages will make it easier for Yahoo to show more information. Great. But it also makes it easier for everyone, including Linkedin and Yahoo’s competitors, to scrape intelligently, and offer bigger/better/faster/cheaper.

Now, there are certainly other benefits regarding cross-domain info linking – being able to better know the relationships between data across multiple data sets, for example. Again, good, but not great, imo.

It’s certainly a chicken/egg situation, but I’m also not sure that’ll we have the same incentives that we did 10 years ago before the massive commercialization. For every argument for semantic markup, there’s gotta be at least one competing commercial interest against it.

That’s my 2 cents as to why this will be an uphill battle.

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Any thoughts?


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New podcast up

Latest podcast episode up.  I cover feedback from the last episode (thanks on the questions answered everyone!).  A few news tidbits cropped up – Perl on Rails, Seaside was brought to my attention, I point over to Paul Spoerry’s blog to a great list of resources for web developers, and I wrap up with a question about what collaborative tools you’re all using.

Listen up and subscribe over at http://www.webdevradio.com


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Hard to keep up with evolving web tech!

Whew!  The last several months have brought a flurry of web tech activity, the likes of which I haven’t seen in years.

Apollo/Silverlight/JavaFX all are aiming at reinventing in-browser development.

Yahoo Pipes, Ning, Coghead and some other platforms are giving us new ways to think about web-based development.

The YUI/Dojo/Scriptaculous/Atlas/jQuery/GWT AJAX toolkits – what can I say?  They each bring their own strengths to the front-end development arena.  It’s hard to go wrong choosing any of them, and they all illustrate the point that there’s very little reason to be doing AJAX by hand if you’re doing it at all (and I’d recommend looking at Aptana.com if you’re looking for a decent Javascript editor).

Dojo had introduced an interesting ability – the ability to use local storage.  A local storage API abstracted the read/write to local storage mechanisms, including cookies and Flash.  This Dojo functionality was pretty interesting, and may still be the best way to handle this sort of need in a cross-platform way, due to Flash’s current popularity and installed base.  It will throw up warnings after so many kilobytes of local storage for permission to use that much drive space, which may scare off a few people, but used judiciously, it’s a useful hack.

Google today announced Google Gears, a plugin which provides a local SQLite server, data cache management, and a worker pool to manage multiple worker processes, increasing browser app responsiveness (Firefox, I’m giving you the evil eye).  Some sample code from http://code.google.com/apis/gears/

  try {
    db = google.gears.factory.create('beta.database', '1.0');
  } catch (ex) {
    setError('Could not create database: ' + ex.message);
  }

  if (db) {
    db.open('database-demo');
    db.execute('create table if not exists Demo' +
               ' (Phrase varchar(255), Timestamp int)');

    // Initialize the UI at startup.
    displayRecentPhrases();
  }

I suspect this may be jumped on by many smaller ISVs as a way to provide local data storage and SQL-ish functionality in a cross-platform way.  There aren’t any real broadly supported, viable  options for client-side functionality apart from Windows, which isn’t cross-browser.  From what I’m reading, the Google Gears project is an open source project, which may mean it gets adopted and ported to other browsers besides the current IE and Firefox.  It’s released under the “New BSD” license, whatever that is, so I’m not 100% certain on that part, but it sounds open source enough for most usage.

I suspect I missing a number of other players in the emerging web technology space (Laszlo and Flex come to mind as well), but I’ve been struck by some of the cool developments over the past several months, and the Google Gears announcement today pushed me into posting this just now.

What cool web technologies have you come across recently?


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Visual Studio / YUI combination

Is there a way to have web apps built with Visual Studio automatically use the YUI javascript toolkit controls instead of or in addition to MS tools?  If not, perhaps MS would be kind enough to offer that option in a future version, or perhaps even bundle them directly.  Given than the YUI controls are BSD licensed, there’s no legal or moral reason to not do that.  From what I’ve seen the cross-platformness of MS’s VS controls for web apps are pretty good already, but I’ve not tested them on the more fringe browsers.  It’s not that I necessarily expect them to work on all browsers, but I know that the YUI stuff does a good job at the ‘graceful degradation’ which helps cross-platform efforts.

I tried the Silverlight 1.1 alpha plugin on my XP box, but it didn’t work with FireFox 2.0.  I’m not sure if it’s supposed to or not.  I was reading that the Silverlight technology was supposed to be cross-platform, but all that meant was it’d work on a Mac, not the broader Unix market in general.  IIRC, the mono project promised Silverlight compatibility by the end of 2007, but I’m a bit skeptical of that.


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Yahoo!’s pipes

Yahoo! has recently opened up their ‘pipes‘ application, which is a web-based app to visually manipulate XML feeds. Techcrunch has more on this, plus screen shots. The system seems down right now, so I can’t play with it, but it looks to be very interesting. This has the potential to open up the idea of ‘mashups’ to a more mainstream audience, which may increase the pressure for sites/companies to put more of their data in parse-friendly XML feeds.

UPDATE:
I was able to log in for a bit, but any time I added any module to my work area I got ‘proxy errors’.  Not sure if it’s a proxy issue here in the building I’m in (but how/why would I get through to the site in the first place?) or something on Yahoo!’s end.  Will keep trying later.


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Yahoo!’s pipes

Yahoo! has recently opened up their ‘pipes‘ application, which is a web-based app to visually manipulate XML feeds. Techcrunch has more on this, plus screen shots. The system seems down right now, so I can’t play with it, but it looks to be very interesting. This has the potential to open up the idea of ‘mashups’ to a more mainstream audience, which may increase the pressure for sites/companies to put more of their data in parse-friendly XML feeds.

UPDATE:
I was able to log in for a bit, but any time I added any module to my work area I got ‘proxy errors’.  Not sure if it’s a proxy issue here in the building I’m in (but how/why would I get through to the site in the first place?) or something on Yahoo!’s end.  Will keep trying later.


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Embedding maps – google v yahoo

I’ve been a fan of a lot of the Yahoo developments over the past few months – specifically all the openness which has characterized their Yahoo Developer center, the Yahoo UI toolkit, and things of that nature.  I’m looking to build a service which requires an embedded, scrollable map.  As much as I like Yahoo, I won’t be able to use their service, at least to start with (until the project is making tons of money!) because they specifically forbid commercial use.  From their terms of service page:

Personal Use Only. You agree to use the Data together with Yahoo! Maps solely for personal, non-commercial purposes for which you were licensed, and not for service bureau, time-sharing or other similar purposes.

Google’s map terms of use, however, allow for use on any site which is free for the public to use.  Given that they still charge for usage ‘behind the firewall’, they’re probably still making money off this, and flooding the market with mashup apps based on Google’s tech.  This seems like a long term strategic misstep for Yahoo, given that they’re, in my view, far ahead of the game in many other aspects when it comes to reaching out to developers.

Your thoughts?


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