CommonTag – Linked Data for the masses

Today is a great day for the continued growth of linked data and the semantic web, as Zigtag and a number of other companies simultaneously announce support for the new CommonTag format.

The CommonTag format, based on RDFa, is a way for computers to understand the meaning behind the tags that people use.  We’ve discussed the importance of the meaning behind tags before, here and here.  Tags are used in many instances to classify things, but current solutions have two distinct problems:

  1. an idea can be referred to as many things, i.e. a car can also be referred to as an automobile, or API can also be referred to as “application programming interface”.
  2. a bigger problem is that a tag can represent many different ideas – i.e. “apple” can refer to a fruit, a company, or any number of different things.  “Giants” can refer to two different sports teams.

When people read tags, they can usually decipher the meaning behind them because they have context to draw from.  However, for machines, it’s much more difficult, and the CommonTag standard means to solve this problem.

Moreover, it is the support from the companies using this technology that is so important to create a lasting standard. The companies involved in the development of the standard are AdaptiveBlue, DERI (NUI Galway), Faviki, Freebase, Yahoo!, Zemanta, and of course Zigtag.  Not only is this the first time that many companies using semantic tags have come together on day one to support this format, but the variety of companies is also extremely important to its proliferation; we have three content producers (Zigtag, Faviki and Zemanta), a tagging repository (Freebase), and three content consumers (Yahoo!, DERI, and AdaptiveBlue).

CommonTag Ecosystem

This may very well lead the way to search engines that better understand what you’re looking for, or better tools that can identify things you might be interested in.  It’s indeed a very exciting day.

If you’re interested in using or contributing to the format, you can find out more information at


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