Putting the Semantic Web to work in e-Commerce with GoodRelations

Putting the Semantic Web to work in e-Commerce with GoodRelations

Summary: Martin Hepp and Jamie Taylor answer questions about the GoodRelations vocabulary in a podcast conversation, exploring opportunities to enrich the way in which we compare goods and services.

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TOPICS: Browser
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Millions of us rely upon online information to inform purchasing decisions, but the ad hoc fashion in which free-text descriptions of products and services are interpreted and offered up by mainstream search engines makes this a far less accurate process than we might wish. Working quietly behind the scenes the GoodRelations vocabulary is setting out to do something about this, and with adopters such as Best Buy already onboard they're off to a great start.

Last week, I spoke with Martin Hepp of Germany's Universität der Bundeswehr München and Jamie Taylor of San Francisco startup Metaweb (best known to readers of this blog as the home of Freebase) to learn more. The result has just been released as a podcast.

Within specific organisations and supply chains, of course, Master Data Management is already well understood. Processes and procedures are in place to ensure that products are accurately and unambiguously described, and I touched on some of the semantic technology applications in this 2009 piece for Semantic Universe.

The picture becomes somewhat less clear as data moves out of the enterprise and onto the web. Even on the product website itself, much of that internal structure and richness is inadequately conveyed. For the consumer (or aggregator) wishing to compare and contrast MP3 players from a number of competing providers, it can frequently be difficult to accurately ensure that they really are comparing apples with apples. It is here that GoodRelations comes into its own, offering data providers a consistent way in which to describe key attributes of their business and its products.

Yahoo! already works to intelligently represent GoodRelations data in search results, and Martin Hepp asserts that Google "is doing something" with the data too. GoodRelations-encoded product descriptions, it seems, perform better in the mainstream search engines than their less structured competitors. The rich structure is also available for use in specific applications far beyond the generic search engine, and we touch on some of these possibilities during the conversation.

US-based consumer electronics retailer Best Buy already embeds GoodRelations RDFa in product pages, and reports improvements in findability and use.

Closer to home (for me, at least), UK supermarket giant Tesco has begun to experiment with embedding RDFa in pages. GoodRelations terms aren't used - yet - but it will be interesting to see how quickly that changes, and the applications that third parties might begin to build that leverage all this rich structure.

Have a listen to the podcast, and see what you think. Does GoodRelations have a place on your website?

Topic: Browser

Paul Miller

About Paul Miller

Paul Miller provides consultancy and analysis services at the interface between the worlds of Cloud Computing and the Semantic Web.

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7 comments
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  • Products vs. Product Offerings

    Paul says: "GoodRelations comes into its own,
    offering data providers a consistent way in which
    to describe key attributes of their business and
    its products." This could be misread as
    suggesting that GoodRelations provides a
    vocabulary for describing products and their
    attributes (call it a "product vocabulary"). This
    is not quite true.

    To use GoodRelations a vendor has to already have
    a product vocabulary -- e.g. (red delicious)
    Apples or Zunes, GoodRelations is a "product
    offering vocabulary" for specifying *offers*.
    UscholdM
  • RE: Putting the Semantic Web to work in e-Commerce with GoodRelations

    Dear Michael:
    Yes and no: GoodRelations provides a basic set of classes and properties for describing products, e.g. their EAN/UPC codes. Also not that part of the product semantics can be carried along in short text content and expanded / lifted to the elements of a more fine-grained products and services ontology like eClassOWL, freeClassOWL, or CEO.

    So in a nutshell: The precision of the descriptipn of the product can be increased by plugging in a GoodRelations-compliant ontology for a particular set product types, but it does not have to.

    For a list of compatible ontologies for products, see

    http://www.ebusiness-unibw.org/wiki/GoodRelations#Vocabularies_for_Products_and_Services_Types_and_Features

    Best wishes

    Martin Hepp
    mhepp
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