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Introducing Piggy Bank 2.0

May 22nd, 2005

Today we have released Piggy Bank 2.0b1.

Piggy Bank is a Firefox extention that turns your regular web browser into a semantic web browser. Cutting the buzzword crap, we enable you to take web data, normalized and well mixable, with you. Then you can search it, store it, browse it, share it, map it, tag it and so on. All in the comfort of your firefox browser. Web data will not be jailed in their original containers and will allow you to mix and match it as you wish, not as the original web site wanted.

Piggy Bank is unique in many ways:

  1. it’s mostly written in java. Yes, you heard me: java, not javascript. We found a way to write an XPCOM component in Java and make it run on both windows, linux and macosx (you need to install something there but it works after that). So what? well, we stand on the shoulders of giants: velocity, lucene, sesame, lo4j, dom4j, jtidy… hundreds of men years of work we don’t have to redo, and immediately portable across operating systems.
  2. it digests RDF, but it’s very liberal on what RDF it can do stuff with. You have to use RDF types, but that’s about it.
  3. it makes it easy for you to add RDF to existing web sites, but it doesn’t force you to wait for web sites to do it: you can scrape them! we give you all the tools and you just have to write a scraper, either in javascript or XSLT. Think of a data-focused GreaseMonkey.
  4. it uses RDF for tagging, but in a way to allows people to agree or disagree, connect or disambiguate between tags used by others (as I described in an earlier post).
  5. in combination with a Semantic Bank, allows you to share and publish information with friends or colleagues, with the granularity and trust you want, not forcing you to post everything in a single web site that somebody else owns and controls.
  6. its designed to allow you to mix data from various sources and use web services to provide more information for that data (for example, Google Maps and Google geo-coordinate lookup web service).
  7. it’s very easy to extend, providing scrapers, facades and templates so that you can adapt it to your own needs.

What Mosaic did for the web was to show to everybody what you would gain if you invested (time and effort) in creating your HTML data. It made it obvious. This was what really kick-started it.

Piggy Bank brings you that advantage but for RDF data. And it couples it with a framework where users can innovate. The reward of spending a few hours converting your address book into RDF and see it immediately located on a map or facetted browsed is way bigger than the cost. The return on your investiment high and easily felt. This is the thing that had been missing so far: a reason.Piggy Bank gives you one and tries to help you along the way, both in the creation and in the consumption.

Piggy Bank, to me, feels like a killer app in the sense that I use it not because I want to advocate the technology (or our work) but because I need the features myself! It made it also very painful to develop on it, because when it didn’t work, it hurt! I couldn’t access the information I needed and depended on! It was a great incentive to do small incremental development and continous testing… which turned out to be an incredibly productive way of doing software developmetn (as I knew already, but this made very obvious).

This will be a day to remember.