Zach Beauvais

Interview with Adaptive Blue: What is a Smartlink?

Written by Zach Beauvais

Oct 29, 2007

After my trial implementation of AdaptiveBlue’s Smartlink technology on this very site, I was contacted by Director of Business Development, Fraser Kelton, who agreed to a Questions and Answers session about Adaptive Blue’s new technology. For a quick introduction, I have been trying out AdaptiveBlue’s Blue Organiser for a few weeks and found their semantic features helpful and intuitive for finding and retrieving changing information, and decided to try out the Smartlink code to offer this to readers of my blog:

What makes a link Smart?

Traditional links are not smart, they’re simple pointers to pages. When we write about a book and link to the book’s page on Amazon we mean to link to the thing but the link points to the page.

A link is smart when it’s capable of automatically identifying and understanding what the thing is on the page. Once the link is identified to mean a thing a lot of valuable information can be automatically presented to the user that’s contextually correct for the thing. What I mean by this is that once a link is semantically understood to be about a specific book the user can be presented with options around that particular book – read the New York Times Book Review for the book, find similar books, save the book to social networks, etc. When the link is identified to be about a music album the actions and information presented are different and contextually correct.

How about the ‘link’ in Smartlinks… where does it link to


With SmartLinks the user links like they normally would to a page on one of a dozen of sites – a book on Amazon, an artist on, a stock on Google Finance, and a SmartLink is automatically inserted. The SmartLink is automatically inserted and when the icon is clicked a SmartLink pane launches that includes relevant content from across the web that’s populated using semantic understanding of the original link.

How is this information kept up-to-date?

Everything is automated so the information is always up-to-date. For example, when a user links to a stock page on Google Finance the SmartLink understands that the link is about a stock and will instantly pull up-to-date information about the specific stock into the SmartLink pane when it’s launched. When users link to new releases on Amazon, or one of our other supported sites, a SmartLink is automatically created for the book with relevant and correct information.

Can I use Smartlinks on my own site or blog, and what would be the benefit from a content host’s perspective?

Yes, SmartLinks install with 1-click for Blogger and Typepad, there’s a WordPress plug-in and a single line of java script for all other blog platforms and sites. SmartLinks will then instantly appear on all links to supported sites – both for new posts and all archived posts.

There are a lot of benefits for enabling SmartLinks on your site. They automatically enable you to provide a tonne of additional and contextually correct information in your posts. Your readers will have the instant ability to discover and explore what you’ve blogged about without leaving your site and without having to search or filter for more information – SmartLinks do all of this automatically and present a nice package of pure results. Additionally, a blogger can connect their Amazon Affiliate ID to SmartLinks so that all Amazon links within the SmartLink are monetized – this occurs for new posts as well as all old posts, enabling bloggers to monetize their archives.

Can smartlinks be used alongside RSS or in conjunction with subscription technology? (e.g. for keeping up to date with past current Smartlink, like following a stock or tracking the popularity of a favourite song)

Right now SmartLinks do not work with RSS.

Where would I find Smartlinks at the moment? (i.e. Who is using this technology?)

SmartLinks are enabled on a large number of blogs. You can see some great examples at: – wonderful stock blog that makes great use of SmartLinks for stocks – a great blog that has SmartLinks enabled as well as a number of SmartLink Widgets – has a nice mix of book and music SmartLinks (check out the Typepad list in the right-hand sidebar – SmartLinks were automatically added providing additional benefit to something that previously existed)

What are ‘Semantics’ on the web, and how do smartlinks feature in the ‘semantic web’?

Semantics is defined as “the meaning, or an interpretation of the meaning, of a word, sign, sentence, etc.” To understand the meaning of a word is to semantically understand it. Semantic Web is an academic term about using standardized data formats and a language for recording the relationship between data so that computers can analyze and understand meaning and context of all data on the web.

At AdaptiveBlue we’re taking a top-down approach to semantic understanding. Our products are focused on bringing additional value to consumers in just a few basic verticals – books, music, stocks, etc. It’s a noun-verb equation. We leverage vertical semantic knowledge and existing information on the web to recognize nouns and then apply appropriate verbs.Let’s say a user quickly blogs about a great meal they had at a restaurant and includes a link to the restaurant’s page on CitySearch with no additional information. Our technology is able to identify the link as a noun and understand that it’s about a specific restaurant. A SmartLink is then automatically inserted that includes relevant verbs: read reviews, make a reservation, find it on a map, find nearby bars to grab a drink at afterwards, etc. All of these are for the specific restaurant and all of this is completed automatically and instantly.Does this have anything to do with the much-vaunted ‘Web 3.0’?I don’t think anyone knows what’s next for the web. Regardless we don’t want to be known for a label or a buzz word. We want to be known for the value and utility that we bring to individuals. We’re leveraging our technology to enable users to browse smarter and think that the benefits today are already strong and they’re only going to strengthen in the future. You can attach yourself to any number of labels, but at the end of the day it all comes down to people and that’s our focus.

Do you see Smartlink technology changing the way we use the web? How/not?

Yes. Currently we provide the smarts to understand that a page on Amazon is about a thing and can provide instant information that’s contextually correct for that thing. That’s valuable and different from how we currently use the web today, it provides a more efficient method to discover and learn more about the object.

Understanding that a page on Amazon is a particular thing, and that it’s the same thing that’s on a page on Barnes and Noble or in a particular blog post is very valuable. This starts to shift away from a web of pages towards an emerging web of things and individuals will find a lot of value in a web of things.

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