The next big stage in the evolution of the Internet, according to many experts and luminaries, will be the advent of the Semantic Web–that is, technologies that let computers process the meaning of Web pages instead of simply downloading or serving them up blindly. Microsoft’s acquisition of the semantic search engine Powerset earlier this year shows faith in this vision. But thus far, little Semantic Web technology has been available to the general public. That’s why many eyes will be on Twine, a Web organizer based on semantic technology that launches publicly today.
Developed by Radar Networks, based in San Francisco, Twine is part bookmarking tool, part social network, and part recommendation engine, helping users collect, manage, and share online information related to any area of interest. For the novice, it can be tricky figuring out exactly where to start. But for experienced users, Twine can be a powerful way to research a subject collaboratively or find people with common interests, with the usual features of a bookmarking site augmented by Twine’s underlying semantic technology.
After creating an account, a user adds a Twine bookmarklet to her browser’s bookmarks, then adds items to her Twine page by clicking the bookmarklet as she surfs the Web. Bookmarks, too, can easily be imported from a browser or from another Web bookmarking service.
Twine uses artificial intelligence–machine learning and natural language processing–to parse the contents of Web pages and extract key concepts, such as people, places, and organizations, from the pages that a user saves. The site then uses these concepts to link information and users. For example, creating a twine–a bundle of bookmarks related to a particular topic–devoted to a specialized technique in computer game design quickly led to the discovery of twines (created by other users) devoted to other areas of game design and to twines devoted to a popular game that uses the technique. It also led to other users interested in the subject. Twine is also meant to automatically generate tags, descriptions, and summaries of bookmarked Web pages. In the preview, or beta, version, this feature didn’t always work properly, but Nova Spivack, CEO of Radar Networks, says that the functionality has been improved ahead of the public launch. Twines offer a hub for collecting, sharing, and discussing information. For example, users have created twines devoted to twentieth-century music, science and technology, philosophy, and cool things found around the Web.