Will Microsoft Start Displaying Entity Information in Browsers?

Posted in: Semantic Web

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A patent from the Software and Search Engine Company, Microsoft, shows a new way to display Entity and related social media information from visited webpages that could be worth paying attention to.

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Sometimes it can be interesting seeing what appears in patents from places other than Google to get a sense of what other sites might be doing that differs from what Google is doing.

While Bing is a direct competitor of Google’s, we don’t see patents filed under the company name Bing. Instead, those are filed under the name Microsoft. Microsoft also manufactures software of different types and hardware too. A recently granted patent from Microsoft tells us about features that it might include in browser frames when it identifies entities on Web pages, and show us “related social networking information on a Web browser.” This could be helpful, according to the patent because:

Many users of the Internet and other networks are members of one or more social networks. Such users can include individuals and organizations, including companies and corporations. The utilization of social networks can be generally limited to circumstances when the social network itself is accessed. Consequently, for a first user to obtain or learn social network information about a second user, the first user may generally proceed to the social network on which the second user has posted information and conventionally look up me second user’s social network profile.

This patent was granted last week, and it is possible to see the patent at:

Displaying social networking information based on identified entity
Inventors: Farid Hosseini, Mohammad Omid Monshizadeh, Gloria Lau
Assignee: Microsoft Technology Licensing, LLC
US Patent: 10,262,379
Granted: April 16, 2019
Filed: October 30, 2012


A system and computing instructions may include a user device, a social network database, and a processor. The user device may include a user interface configured to display a web browser. The social network database may be configured to store social network information related to an entity. The processor may be configured to identify the entity based on the content of a webpage displayed on the web browser of the user device, obtain social network information related to the entity from the social network database based on a social network relationship between the user and the entity, and display the social network information on the web browser of the user device.

Entity Information in Web Pages

We see entities in search results from both Google and Bing when those recognize an entity in a query that we perform. This patent would show something different. It would identify an entity on a Web page that we visit, and try to identify social media information related to that entity, and display that information. The patent tells us about this approach:

The present disclosure provides an ability to identify an entity that is included in the content of a web page that is displayed or about to be displayed on a web browser. The identity of the entity can be cross-referenced against a social network database and information related to the entity obtained from the database. The social network information can then be displayed on the web browser alongside the web page. The social network may thereby be presenting the user of the web page with social networking information relevant to the content on the web page, such as relevant job information, product descriptions, social networking messages, and other potentially pertinent information.

This information might be displayed in information frames on a browser, like displayed in this drawing from the patent:

Frames in a Browser to show Entity Information

An entity that may be identified on a web page could be one of several different types, and we could be told a lot of different information about such entities. The patent points out such potential variety:

For instance, for an entity who is a person, the member’s information can include name, age, gender, profession, location, activities, likes, and dislikes, and so forth. For an entity that is an organization, such as a company, the information can include name, offered products for sale, available job postings, organizational interests, forthcoming activities, and the like.

We know that Search engines such as Google and Bing are making an effort to identify entities in searches we perform. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that Microsoft might build something that identifies entities on pages that we visit and provides information about those, and ways to visit social media profiles from those entities

The patent provides an example of the kind of information that it might include about entities in an API similar to the one used by OpenCalais, which is from Thompson Reuters Corporation. The OpenCalais API might be used by Microsoft, or a proprietary API that can identify entities may be used.

This is the first connection between Bing and Thompson Reuters that I have seen, but the partnership between the two companies makes sense. There can be a lot of value to searchers who visit pages where entities upon those can be identified in this way.

Entity Information Displayed in a Browser

The patent describes how this entity data and social media information might be built into a framework for a browser. It’s not surprising to see Microsoft build a display to this kind of information into a browser since they’ve been a browser manufacturer for years, and it would set the browsers they do offer apart from others. Social media information could be much more in-depth than just links to profiles, and the Patent details:

The social network graph filed can include a portion of a social network graph that illustrates a social network link between the user and the entity. A social network graph can illustrate social network connections between members of the social network that illustrates which members are socially connected concerning one another and what secondary connections within the social network can lead from one member of the network to another member. The social network graph field can thereby show social network connections between the user and entity as well as connections to other potentially relevant members of the social network, such as associates with similar interests of organizations with similar products or goals. In various examples, a social network connection can be a chosen association between two social network entities, variously known in the art as a “connection”, a “friend”, a “follow”, and the like. A social network graph can incorporate multiple degrees of separation; two entities on the social network can have a connection by way of one or more third-party entities on the social network, such as a “friend-of-a-friend” connection.

Interestingly, this browser addition could also include job information. Especially since Google has started showing enhanced job search results.

The job field can optionally show career information of an individual or information pertinent to available job openings at an organization. Individual career information can include both an area of a profession as well as a current employer and/or a past employer. The job opening at an organization can include a job description and requirements.

We don’t know for certain whether Microsoft will make this entity information available to us, and the patent protects the process if they decide to move ahead with providing a browser that can show this type of information. It does look like it could be very informative. The patent does provide several examples of additional information that could be shown to us:

The data field can include miscellaneous information relating to the entity. Such miscellaneous information can include a social network description of the entity, such as an individual or organizational profile, specialties or offered products or services, social network postings such as messages, status updates, and the like, and other information that may be included in a social network profile of the entity. Information in the data frame generally, and data in the can be obtained and provided to the web browser for display in the data field based in part on a relevance to the user, popularity of the information, and a privacy setting of the entity. Data fields for which data is unavailable can be omitted from display. Additional data fields can be included, such as based on a user preference or selection via the web browser.

The patent also provides some examples of the kind of information that might be shown about different types of entities, including companies. Here’s what the patent tells us might be revealed in that instance:

The information in the web page can be a company name, a company product, or a company employee. In an example of the company or employee being identified, information relating to the company can be displayed in the data frame, such as a company profile, financial information, and company job postings that may be pertinent to the user. Additionally, relevant company products or services can be displayed. In an example of a company product being identified in the web page content, information relating to the product itself, such as pricing and consumer reviews, can be displayed along with or in substitute for the company information.

Implications of Microsoft Displaying this Entity Information

If Microsoft begins to offer information about entities in this way, it is going to make sense that the information available through an API such as the one described here (either the Open Calais API or a proprietary API be reviewed and checked upon as needed. Information about the Intelligent Tagging approach behind the Open Calais API may be important to learn about. A Video on the Intelligent Tagging page refers to intelligent Tagging helping to fulfill the promise of the Semantic Web. This approach doesn’t sound too different from the Entity Extraction approach that Google describes in a recently granted patent that they published.

Action Items about Entities

1. Comparing the approach that Google may use to collect information about entities and Microsoft may use to display information about entities using the Thompson Reuter API is worth doing. How close is Intelligent Tagging to what Google is doing with Entity Recognition, and gathering facts about those entities?

2. Consider what information is available about entities that your clients may be concerned about, such as companies, brands, products, employees, career opportunities, and what an API such as the Open Calais API might display.

3. Review Social Media Information about entities that may appear on the pages of client’s sites, and consider updating those if they will become more visible. What becomes important to have displayed about employees? What do you presently show for them on your pages, and in social media?

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