Released to the public today, Semanti doesn’t seek to replace Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Instead, it aims to offer a truly semantic experience for anyone using these search engines to find information.
Not only that, but it offers interaction as well with your friends on Facebook using the Facebook Connect option. More on that in a bit.
So how does Semanti work and why should you be excited about using it? To get the full scoop, I chatted with Semanti CEO Bruce Johnson about some of the key features and future plans and tinkered with the beta version over the weekend.
Search engines have come a long way in the last year. Newcomers continue to try improve how we gather information, some more successful than others.
Yet a lot of the time, results can vary depending on what search engine you’re using and how well a website or web page has been optimized for search. The top results aren’t necessarily the best.
Currently available as a download for Firefox 3 or greater, where Semanti differs is how the information is both gathered and displayed.
“The problem with the current search engines is that there’s a lot of ambiguity,” says Bruce. “Which isn’t surprising – there are over 10 billion web pages on the web, and dissecting this noise can be tough, especially with different names or terms for the same thing.” Thanks to Semanti Suggest™, any ambiguity is soon dealt with.
Better Results with Semanti Suggest
An example is the word “apple” – type that into Google and it returns the Apple company, apple the fruit, images from Flickr and similar. With Semanti Suggest, however, a drop-down menu with a descriptive side box allows you to choose which definition you mean.
You can then edit labels regarding that result, so the next time you used search and you typed in “computer” or “Mac”, Apple the company would be the result.
Semanti Suggest also takes into account the difference between users internationally. An apartment in the U.S. may be a condo in Canada, which may be a flat in the U.K. Or, New York may be searched as NYC or the Big Apple as well. Thanks to Semanti’s ontology software, it will recognize that these mean the same thing and bring up the results you’re after.
“At the moment, Semanti has more than 8 million terms and 2.7 million unique concepts to grab this information and we will continue to add as new yet related phrases come to light,” explains Bruce. “We also plan to use our community to help keep us up-to-date by using a Wiki-like system further down the line.”
Semanti Suggest also gives you an option to preview the results. Just click the preview tab and you’ll be able to view the website in question via an in-line box opening up. Simple yet incredibly useful.
Making Search Results Personal
Another of the cool concepts behind the Semanti web browser is MyWeb. Similar to standard bookmarking options, MyWeb allows you to save a page you like to your favourites.
However, unlike standard bookmarking options, Semanti saves all the text and the search options for that page. Semanti then scans your saved pages as well as the search engines for your keywords. The results appear at the top of your search, making it far easier to find a previous page than having to dig through hundreds of bookmarks.
Also, the pages are saved on Semanti’s servers. All you need to do is log-in to your Semanti account and you’re good to go, regardless of whether you’re on the same computer you bookmarked the site with or not.
Because Semanti is looking to build community recommendations as well as that of personal friends, you do need an account to use the browser. This can either be via Semanti itself, or Facebook Connect. If you go with the latter choice, this is where the fun really begins.
Semanti, Facebook and Search Results You Can Trust
Since social networking is such a big part of our online experience, it’d make sense to use these connections when looking for something, no? Semanti agrees and, through its use of Facebook Connect, allows you to see recommendations from your Facebook friends.
By signing up using your Facebook account details, Semanti then lets you send invites to your Facebook friends to open a Semanti account. This then opens up a whole new level of interaction.
Because Semanti (understandably) believes that you and your friends share common interests, this will transfer itself to search engine queries. Video games, music, bars, clubs, cars, fashion, etc – everyday things that make you and your friends… well, friends.
Now, if that friend has the Semanti plug-in running, their search for shared interests will appear at the top of your own search. Not only that, but their edits and recommendations will appear too. If you hover over the little Facebook icon next to the result, it will show which of your friends recommended that result.
If you’re like me, you know which friends are better judges on certain topics, so you listen to them more. Semanti allows this word-of-mouth recommendation from a search engine point of view. Again, simple yet incredibly effective.
Although Semanti is new to the search engine table, it’s clear to see why it offers great potential. I know I’d rather trust the word of my friends and community over someone who knows how to game search engine optimization.
Additionally, I really like the idea of the Semanti Suggest option taking into account different terminology for the same product. This alone could make a huge difference to web users. But it’s just the beginning, according to Bruce.
“While we’re using Facebook Connect at the moment, we don’t rule out Twitter Connect, or LinkedIn, or blog plugins, etc. And there are the other browsers to include, like Safari and IE (Google Chrome doesn’t currently support plug-ins). We want to make search engines better and I think Semanti does that.”
From playing with it over the weekend and seeing it in action, I have to agree. It’s the natural evolution in web browsing and is true Web 3.0 in feel and approach. You can download the plug-in from the Semanti website, and follow them on Twitter or Facebook for the latest news.
How about you? Do you think you’ll be using Semanti and what features would you like to see that aren’t in the initial build?
- My thanks to Bruce Johnson for chatting with me and answering my queries, and to Nicole Roseveare for arranging the chat.