ISKO UK’s KOnnect blog notes that at least Google is taking metadata seriously.

Chatting about Wolfram Alpha the other day, it was pointed out to me that specialist knowledge for a general audience is actually a very niche area, and this is the source of the hype. You need to persuade your VC funders you are revolutionary, when actually you have a very tricky business model. Serious researchers will be using specialised systems already and most people want to look up things like train times rather than atomic weights of elements, so your market is people like students and journalists, who have an intermediate level of interest. Perhaps there are enough of them in the world to generate plenty of advertising revenue, but it seems like a tough call.

I hope the funders are happy with the old reference publishing model – lots of investment up front, in the hope not that the finished product will generate huge initial profits, but will have a long steady life. Wolfram Alpha employed 150 people in essentially traditional content creation roles and it will be interesting to see how they get their money back. Google doesn’t have to pay for its own content or metadata creation!