So for the longest while, Google has been the boogie bear of taxonomists, with senior executives lying in wait to pounce on innocent taxonomy projects with the battle cry “why do we need a taxonomy, let’s just get Google!”.
We’ve known for years that Google uses classification in its search algorithms and in its ancillary services but today Google finally came clean with its new Knowledge Graph service “With the Knowledge Graph, Google can better understand your query, so we can summarize relevant content around that topic, including key facts you’re likely to need for that particular thing. For example, if you’re looking for Marie Curie, you’ll see when she was born and died, but you’ll also get details on her education and scientific discoveries.” Is that taxonomy work or is that taxonomy work?
Sitting behind Knowledge Graph is a 500 million entity ontology, with 3.5 billion defined relationships and attributes – though the words ontology or taxonomy are never used. Exciting in itself, as it evidently exploits the growing maturity of the semantic web and linked data, and the intelligence you can extract from billions of search patterns, to enhance taxonomy work in unprecedented ways. But also a major vindication for the faithful few who have remained steadfast in their belief in taxonomy over magic. BTW, I’m hoping to explore some of these “taxonomy beyond the enterprise” themes in a keynote at Taxonomy Bootcamp later this year. The times they are a changing!
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