3 Semantic Apps to Watch

As mentioned on Read/WriteWeb there are at least 10 (rather commercial) semantic web applications “around” which claim to use semantic web technologies for different purposes: “10 Semantic Apps to Watch”. (Besides this at least 100 prototypes from various research programms exist in this field).

My “short list” of those 10 apps consists of the following three:

  1. twine
  2. Talis
  3. clearforest

To my opinion these 3 projects have the highest potential to become a “big player” in the next generation web. Instead of “improving” what Google does, they try to fulfill a totally new mission:


Twine isn´t organising the “knowledge of the whole world” (like Google would like to do) they rather focus on the users themselves: Using a semantic graph (including the social graph) for each user, information in a social network will flow in a more efficient way. Information will come to the users instead of searching around. Twine is a combination of many of the well known Web 2.0 applications like Facebook or del.icio.us but will use base technologies from the semantic web and will provide a SPARQL API and a REST API.

Possible Risks:

  • It´s still not clear if people will accept personal semantic graphs rather as an advantage or rather as a possible danger for privacy
  • Semantic Web database technologies (Triple stores) are still very young. Although some of the existing systems have already proved that they are scalable none of them have been used so far for really big systems.


Twine is the first company which will combine social tagging, social networking, natural language processing and semantic web on a professional level. So it has the potential to become a very popular service for many people to support their daily business. Sooner or later the same system might be offered also as a very attractive business solution. Nevertheless, twine hasn´t opened its portal for the public so far, so it´s still not clear if all the promises will be held…


Talis is a “domain-agnostic” technology platform which supports developers to build applications on the principles of “mass collaboration”. It is a new breed of a distributed programmatic interface heavily deploying all opportunities the Web of Data may offer. “DNS is used as a robust routing mechanism to connect requests with the closest data or service both for the native platform services, but also for third party data access services.

Possible Risks:

Talis mission sounds great, and its success depends a lot on how this company will be able to build an ecosystem around its services. My forecast: Talis will be acquired in 2009 by one of the big web companies.


Talis tries to establish a new way of organizing information flows throughout the Web of Data. Since it relies on open standard protocols like RESTful Web Services a lot of applications will use Talis technologies. Talis as a company has a well founded background since it has been provided services for governmental organizations or libraries for the last 30 years. Some of the people working at Talis rank among the best semantic web thinkers.


(Clearforest was acquired by Reuters) was bought by Thomson. ClearForest’s technology automatically categorizes documents and structures entities contained inside text. The Semantic Web without text extraction algorithms which really work will never take place. And Clearforest really works. Just try it out!

Possible Risks:

Clearforest is well embedded in a giant: Thomson is the world´s largest media company. This is, of course a great opportunity to sell these new kind of semantic solutions to many of the global Top 5000. On the other hand, it might be a risk since “traditional” media companies still tend to forget about the long tail and open APIs.


Simply spoken, the USP of Clearforest is that the technology works and it can be integrated into existing architectures without being a semantic web expert. It can become one of the cornerstones of an integrated corporate semantic web architecture.

8 thoughts on “3 Semantic Apps to Watch

  1. “Talis will be acquired in 2009 by one of the big web companies”

    Do you know something I don’t? 😉

    Thanks for the write-up… and I look forward to demonstrating that we share your views around the importance of the ecosystem!

  2. Dear Paul, I hope all the best for Talis since your approach is very exciting. Education in such an ecosystem can´t be overrated. Especially many developers are still not aware of the great opportunities the semantic web is offering… best wishes! andreas

  3. Thanks for the news that clearforest was bought by Thomson.
    I didn’t understand what exactly was meant by
    “The Semantic Web without text extraction algorithms which really work will never take place”.

  4. Above all, Semantic Web Data can be produced by various mapping methods on top of structured data: relational-database-to-RDF mapping (e.g. using D2RQ), by XHTML-to-RDF mapping (GRDDL), or by special extraction methods like the DBpedia information extraction framework. But in most cases there isn´t structured data at hand. So, the only way to put semantics on top of such resources are text extraction tools like Clearforest (or social tagging or a combination of those both methods). Clearforest can predict in a very powerful way what a text is all about. It doesn´t only extract key-phrases, it also categorizes them…

  5. Pingback: VirtualChaos - Nadeem’s blog » Talis gets some nice Semantic Web coverage

  6. thank you for the post. I am not familiar to clearforest, at which I should take a deeper look. But I agree with what you said about Twine and Talis. Both of them are probably the most aggressive achievements on the industrial Semantic Web realm. New companies may follow, but they are certainly at the leading positions right now.

    — Yihong

  7. Twine is going to be truly something, unlike cheap after-thought APIs like Facebook, Twine starts at a true semantic core and knowledge technology rather than hype.

    while connections between people can be susceptible to abuse, this could be secondary and I see Twine can be the first commercial effort to hit mainstream.
    I hope to see things like automated tagging, AI, visual programming and use of intuitive (not necessarily natural) language.

  8. Andreas:

    Tom Tague from the Thomson Reuters Calais initiative here.

    First – Thanks! We love making “Top 3” lists. We were really happy to make the “Top 10” list you referenced in your article.

    A couple of points. The public-facing semantic web initiative based on ClearForest technology is called Calais. You can visit the site and get a brief video overview at http://www.opencalais.com. Calais is a web service that extracts (as RDF) semantic metadata from just about anything you send it. It’s also a developer community over 5,000 strong and dozens of applications that community and we have built to integrate Calais into WordPress, Drupal, MOSS, SearchMonkey and a host of other platforms.

    By the way – Calais is free (as in free, costs nothing, zero, nada) for commercial and non-commercial use.

    For the quickest demo of Calais capabilities please visit http://bit.ly/CalaisViewer. Pick up a news article along the way, paste it there and see what we can do.

    We also have a great browser plugin for Firefox and IE that extracts semantic information right as you browse.

    Drop by for a visit!

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