Yahoo! are certainly being a lot more open than competitors such as Google and Microsoft when it comes to talking about their use of semantic technologies. They've been active for several years in recruiting stalwarts of the Semantic Web community such as Dave Beckett, and there is a long tradition of the company's employees actively contributing to the research side of the Semantic Web world.
More recently, at least part of that sometimes-esoteric research has begun to make the transition toward Yahoo!'s consumer-facing properties. FireEagle and, most recently, SearchMonkey are obvious examples of this transition. SearchMonkey, for example, has real potential to compellingly demonstrate the case for the Semantic Web and is likely to drive a scramble toward structured markup within the SEO sector.
It's hard to believe that Microsoft and Google are not also actively engaged in this area, although their reticence in speaking about it creates a perfect opportunity for Yahoo! to make the most of the attention... for now.
SearchMonkey came out of hiding late last month, when Yahoo! CTO Ari Balogh introduced it to attendees at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. There's a Developer event in Sunnyvale next week, and Yahoo! looks likely to be pretty visible at the Semantic Technology Conference in San Jose, 18-22 May.
It was in the context of the Semantic Technology Conference that I found myself in conversation with Peter Mika of Yahoo! Research earlier today. We talked about the potential for SearchMonkey before considering some of the issues posed by moving Semantic Web specifications such as RDF out of the relatively well behaved academic sphere and onto the open Web where honesty is not everyone's priority. Peter is speaking at Semantic Technology, a few days after Yahoo!'s own SearchMonkey Developer event. I look forward to seeing how much more Yahoo! shares on those occasions. Peter did suggest that public access to SearchMonkey will be 'sooner than [we] think.' Next week, maybe?
As Peter enjoins listeners at the end of our conversation, 'Follow the Monkey!' It will be interesting to see where it leads. I will also be intrigued to see whether Google and Microsoft quietly join the followers... or are found hiding behind a tree waiting for us when we get where we're going.