Sunday, February 19, 2006

Tagging++ ... where the web is heading?

I have to admit that I really love RSS. Not necessarily "blogging", but the concepts of RSS itself. It is an amazingly simple idea, and yet it can be used for extremely powerful solution. The whole world of blogging, and news aggregators, is built on the foundation of RSS.

Of course, then came "pinging". When a RSS feed is updated with new posts or data, it can "ping" a service to notify others that it has been updated. This provides a way to subscribe to the updates of huge numbers of RSS feeds and blogs. So if I can then get all of these updates, how do I make sense of them? Enter "tagging" ...

Tagging is an ingenious idea ... it embraces the concepts of "microformats" where additional metadata can be embedded into content like RSS feeds and blogs. In the most simple cases, tagging allows for a post to be "categorized" using simple keywords ... anything. So now if I subscribe to the updates of large numbers of posts, I can scan each post for "tags" and create new outbound feeds (which is what Technorati does) or do my own sorting and filtering based on tags.

Tonight I was reading about Edgeio in a post by Tom Raftery. This is a whole new step in tagging ... and it's really getting me thinking. This is where the tags can now designate a post in a blog for a specific purpose! This is not just about categorizing ... but now hinting at what the content is ... and allowing for specialized engines - like Edgeio - to consume the posts to create new aggregated solutions. In the case of Edgeio, the new tags are for "listings" ... posts about things that you want to have listed on the Edgeio web site.

What I really like about this, is it that it represents the latest turns in the whole microformat/tagging process. Now, I can simple posts something in my blog, and provide some custom tags that will tell various engines out in the Internet what my intentions are with that post. Already I'm using tags to allow people to simply subscribe to tag feeds ... RSS feeds of posts along a particular topical category. But now I'm able to tag a post to indicate to some engine that this is a post that I want it to consume and take action on! This is an impressive capability.

I can start to think of other directions that this could take. For example, Flickr - the popular photo sharing web site - could now begin to support tags that would indicate a post contains photos that are to be included into Flickr. So instead of uploading my images ... I simply blog about my photos, including the images in my posts. Flickr could detect these images based on tags that I include and automatically consume them. This is where whole new types of tags and actions can begin to take place ... and create some interesting new directions with the web. This introduces yet another "neural" aspect to the applications emerging on the Internet.


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