Thursday, November 6, 2008

I'm Tired of Google's Shell Game

I don't know anyone that can conclusively say what Google's up to with respect to the Semantic Web, so I'm embarking on a small mission to figure this out - or at least shed a little more light. There are more reasons than I can think of for taking a look at this issue, but for starters:
  • Android vs. Nokia's raft of SW efforts related to mobile environments, and Nokia's stated strategy of relying on three revenue streams deriving from handsets, Web services, and mobile content.
  • Google has a lot of smart people, many of whom are hired out of MIT (probably from the same building where the W3C is headquartered).
  • Unconfirmed reports that upon visiting W3C in Cambridge MA one or two years ago, Eric Schmidt commented that there was lots of "good stuff" going on there (but no research contracts were forthcoming).
  • I just searched on Google's US hiring page and got zero (0) results after using the following nine terms (one at a time with no operators): rdf, owl, sparql, ontology, semantic, uri (although url only got one result), linked, triple, graph.
  • Google's a member of the W3C and since May 1, 2008 nineteen (19) individuals with "" in their email address have posted on the W3C's public mailing lists (the lists that the working groups use). Some are quite prolific, particularly if they're chairing a working group. Lots of focus on geolocation.
My take is that the search terms have either been scrubbed from the posting results, scrubbed from the job descriptions, or Google just isn't hiring anyone with competencies in the nine areas searched on above. I find this last point unlikely for any forward looking company whose reason for being is the Web itself.
I'll persist in my research and report back - I'll also fill in some links to the points above as well.


Anonymous said...

There is a much simpler google search, how about: R. Guha RDF Cyc .


David Provost said...

Very interesting - thanks Kingsley.


Juan Sequeda said...

I was able to ask Peter Norvig a question in public about the Semantic Web. Here is my post about it:

You may find that interesting.

Greg Boutin said...

Talk to a friend at Google and apparently they have 2 teams working on semantic technologies. Invited them to potentially talk to us through the Semantic Web gang (subject to Paul Miller's approval) and never heard anything back.
There was a great Twine post on Google's involvement in the space, which "disappeared" a few days after it was posted.
I say conspiracy :)

David Provost said...

Juan - I read your post and yes, it's very interesting. I'll follow up with you directly.

Thanks for writing,


David Provost said...

Greg - it's always good to hear from you - interesting how that post disappeared...but yes, definitely, it's got to be a conspiracy!


Anonymous said...

Google's Achilles heal is in part the future standardization to machine parse-able/comprehensible information structures and "semantic rank" (instead of Pagerank), which takes away Google's advantage in search technology. The other part of their Achilles heal is the one that will ultimately dislodge them from their current position and their aim to be the One Machine. That part is P2P search, P2P applications and ultimately P2P economy.



David Provost said...

I think your comment re: pagerank vs. semantic rank is very fair. The game has only just begun and regardless of Google's talent and money, there are no guarantees of longevity, particularly since corporations generally seem to have limited lifespans.

Separately, a friend recently walked me through the idea of a P2P economy and I think his view of it is very interesting. I believe it will occur (and has been to a very small degree) although my guess is that it will co-exist with the "one entity" economy discussed in the blog you point to.

Good post - thanks for writing,


Evolving Trends said...

Hi David,

I maintain that blog (Evolving Trends). Sorry for posting previous response under Anonymous.

Glad to run into you.


Jana Herwig said...

For the sake of Completeness: Google states on its Social Graph page that they are currently indexing "the public Web for XHTML Friends Network (XFN), Friend of a Friend (FOAF) markup and other publicly declared connections."

And that this works quite effectively is apparent on this page - try this search for Andreas Blumauer on Google sets (N.B. normally you'd have to add more than one item/person to make Google sets work):

Google returns so many connected people, because all of them are listed on this semantic wiki page:

David Provost said...

Jana - thanks very much for writing - I think it's very interesting that Google provides support for FOAF (which is RDF, after all) and I note this comment on Google's Social Graph API page: "By supporting open Web standards for describing connections..."

When I see the terms "social graph", "describing connections", FOAF, and "open Web standards" I conclude the Semantic Web is involved. However, I still have no conclusion at to why Google won't discuss SW despite the fact they're obviously moving into the space.

Jana, great comment - thanks for writing.


Jana Herwig said...

I guess, as you're suggesting, that they're simply not advertising these positions openly - or identify people inhouse who have skills in that area.

Surreptitious development seems to be their strategy - if you take a look at my own Google Profile (link behind my name), and Google profiles in general, you might also think: "Hey, there is some kind of social networking growing there!"

David said...

Read "Contributors" in
-> Paul Lee, Google Product Search


David Provost said...

David - thanks for the post. Interesting comments by Paul - they strike me as oddly vague in a topic that would seem to welcome the kind of granularity possible with SW technology...