Scribd and Apture herald a new more usable web (New wave of Semantic services arrives)

I’m seeing a trend of new search technologies and semantic databases that make the services we use more productive. You’ll see more of those over the next few weeks, but today Scribd and Apture kick off a new way to get more info from documents stored on the web. Here’s some examples — just highlight a term you want to learn more about and click “learn more:”

Frank Gehrey Illustration.
Room To Read India Brochure (Pg. 17–Mirzapur/rickshaw video )
Kemble Scott’s Book: (Camp David, Armenia)

Here’s Apture’s CEO/founder, Tristan Harris, showing off how this works:

You highlight a term and you’ll learn more about it.

Now, how does that work? Underneath is pretty sophisticated semantic web technologies, but notice how Tristan never talks about semantic web. This is one of the first of the new wave, which shove that technology under the covers, while making it useful. The first wave never caught on because it was too slow, too geeky, and didn’t come help us where we actually live — on the documents we are trying to learn from.

Other places that semantic web technology is being used? Well, take a look at Meshin, which was developed yards from where ethernet originally was developed, in Xerox’s PARC labs. Right now Meshin is an Outlook plugin, sort of a copy of Xobni, but they are indexing every email going through that system and using a combination of graph and semantic databases to make your email more useful.

Who else is building sophisticated databases? Well, if you have one please post in the comments here.