Another Semantic Newsportal ...
Inform started its public beta today. It looks similar to Yahoo or Google News but offers a unique way to dig deeper: for each article there are links for people, places, organizations, topics, industries and products mentioned in the article; clicking on one of these links brings you to articles about this topic. It also proposes new articles based on what you looked at in the past. The New York Times has an article about inform.
The unique selling point of this site seems to be the good application of named entity recognition (unlike it competitor Topix.net, where it was automatic classification, they only use named entity recognition for locations). I would assume that this algorithm works with some kind of background knowledge (at least a long list of possible persons, products etc.). They also do automatic classification (for "industries" and "topics") and I give it a fair chance that they are using the output of their named entity recognition + background knowledge to increase the classification performance (you could have a list of people in sport as background knowledge, recognizing that the article talkes about one of these persons increases the chances that it is about Sport). Inform does not have as much background knowledge about places as topix.net.
Overall it looks like it could become a nice site for news junkies (once they index more stories). For me the named entities looks like a more useful way to browse through the news than the many categories of topix (well, actually I want both! And a decent ontology of places integrated with Google Earth, Maps and its competitors)
Someone from topix.net informed me, that they are using named entity recognition as part of their classification and for more than just locations .. Mea culpa! So the difference comes down to how the classification / named entity recognition results are presented to the user. Topix.net makes it easy to find stories for a particular topic and to integrate the classification results in other sites (see for example the nice topix.net integration in healthline.com). Inform.com is more tailored to people that want to browse through the news, maybe not looking for a particular topic but exploring.