Search on Google for cinema or weather in a region and you will get more than a link: the weather forecast and the showtimes for today or tomorrow … .
Increasingly, search engines are going to provide more than just links, that is the information looked for. To do so Google already uses (since 2009) semantic markup on web pages in order to present search results with information instead of links to sites containing that information. Such so-called rich snippets describe people, reviews, products, recipes, etc.
Wolfram Alpha has this ambition, too. But Wolfram follows another road: Incoming search questions are analyzed via language recognition, linked to the Wolfram Alpha knowledgebase which then delivers corresponding content:
For weather Spain Wolfram Alpha does even better than Google 😉
And now we see a step forward by Google & Co in direction of the Semantic Web: Second of June 2011 Google, Bing and Yahoo! announced schema.org, a ‘new initiative to create and support a common set of schemas for structured data markup on web pages. Schema.org aims to be a one stop resource for webmasters looking to add markup to their pages to help search engines better understand their websites.’
This is the next step after rich snippets and one further step towards the Semantic Web in action. But: Google unfortunately doesn’t use an existing standard like RDF! 😦
Many new markup categories will be added. Something relevant for statistical sites? Perhaps ‘GovernmentOrganization’ and ‘DataType’.
Providers of websites have now to decide how they will integrate such new markup in their content in order to get a good representation in search engines.