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Smarter E-Mail
Prototype draws data from multiple sources to figure out where to send messages

Source: “Semantic Email Addressing: The Semantic Web Killer App?”
Michael Genesereth et al.
IEEE Internet Computing
13 (1): 48-55

Results: Researchers at Stanford University have developed a prototype system that allows people to send e-mail to individuals or groups without knowing the recipients’ e-mail addresses or names. The system scours databases and websites to find addresses for people who fit selected criteria, then sends messages to those addresses.

Why it matters: The system would make it easier for e-mail to reach the correct destination, even when the sender isn’t sure what that destination is. It would allow a person to send a message to “Bob Jones,” say, even if Bob Jones changed jobs and has a new address–or to direct an e-mail to “head of the marketing department,” even if the person holding that position has changed. It could also be used to find several people at once who fit certain criteria.

Methods: The researchers developed software that analyzes requests, such as “Professors who went to Harvard before 1970.” Since data needed to fulfill this request will come from various databases that categorize information in different ways (“professors,” “Harvard,” and so on), the researchers also devised an intermediary program. That program translates these requests into terms that will be understood by the databases being queried. For example, a request for Harvard might be directed to a number of database categories, such as “college,” “institute,” and “university.”

Next steps: The system, which currently gleans addresses from a specific set of university and research-institute databases, must be adapted to work with more databases. It can also be used to gather e-mails from websites that use a standard framework for categorizing information. And the system could be used to filter spam. For example, someone could choose to accept e-mail only from “researchers studying the semantic Web,” and the system would identify addresses of those people and allow messages from them.

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Credit: Sandisk

Tagged: Computing, Web

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