Since the dotcom bubble burst in 2001, the internet has gradually evolved from Web 1.0 to 2.0. Most of us have had first-hand experience of what Web 2.0 offers: social networking; web pages focused on sharing content and creating communities; and much more interactivity. The next move will take Web 2.0 and make even better use of it we can call it Web 3.0.
However, as with other technologies, some parts of the internet have developed more slowly. Most company web sites and corporate intranet pages still use search technology stuck in the dark ages of Web 1.0, and here lies an opportunity for VARs.
Businesses that improve their search technology can up the efficiency of their intranet pages, and help ensure customers stay on the preferred external sites.
Resellers can link emerging search technologies to business requirements, helping organisations make the most of what these products can offer.
Current search technology works well for search engines cataloguing the internet, such as Google. But when this technology is applied to a single web site, it does not work as well, because there is less content for it to use.
Search terms entered must be far more precise for users to find what they are looking for. This makes searching much less intuitive than it should be. While this may sound trivial, it can seriously affect the sales and efficiency of a business.
On corporate intranet pages, for example, ineffective search technology means staff often waste time trying to look for information. Studies have shown that this can be up to an hour a day, which quickly adds up over weeks, months and years.
For customer-facing sites, a lack of intuitive search and navigation capabilities can frustrate visitors and send them away from the site. When a customer does find what they seek, more potential revenue may be lost if search results do not display the accessories available for the product.
However, something is threatening to bring search and navigation kicking and screaming to Web 3.0. Current developments in search and navigation are founded on semantic web technologies based on an ISO standard for the management of knowledge, topic maps.
Topic maps-based web site searching is organised by a subject-centred, classification-based approach that makes it possible for users to find and navigate between content and key concepts that define the business or services offered.
This is achieved by identifying the concepts that are important to what a business does, and linking them to each other and to related content on the business’ intranet or the web.
This means users can search for concepts and ideas, and the search results can be filtered and organised logically. Search results can include related concepts not just those containing the key words used in the search.
If an employee was searching the corporate intranet for information on a product launch, they might try a search on the product name and the word ‘launch’. Such a search would present them with a list of links to documents containing both relevant and irrelevant information.
A topic maps search can display related information, such as contact people
the event, as well as the related documents and links. This information is far more likely to help the end user.
Advanced search technology offers resellers a chance to differentiate themselves. Concept-based search technologies have not yet been widely embraced by VARs so there is a chance to steal a march on the competition.
Search and navigation offerings can be sold alongside or as plug-ins for existing customer content management systems.
For example, a reseller might offer a district council the ability to apply Web 3.0 search and navigation technology to its web site. Because the type of information that councils tend to use and provide is similar, the offering may also be sold to other councils.
The overall benefit for the customers is that it makes their web sites much more user friendly, which should lead to additional sales for them and improved efficiency across their businesses.
For resellers themselves, topic maps-based search technology can provide them with a selling point that allows for strategic positioning in the race for Web 3.0.
Kal Ahmed is director of Oxford-based .NET tool developer and vendor Networked Planet
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