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zemanta-logoBloggers and other online publishers have a few options if they want to enhance their sites with previews of the sites and content they link to — there’s Snap, which has been around for a while, plus a newer startup called Apture. Now semantic publishing Zemanta has entered the competition with a product called Zemanta Balloons.

These tools are useful for publishers because they allow them to enrich the reading experience by linking to other content without actually forcing the reader to leave their web sites. On the reader’s side, Zemanta doesn’t seem to have any standout features — indeed, it seems somewhat limited by the kind of content you can preview (the Zemanta site says Balloons supports Freebase, YouTube, Google Maps, and MusicBrainz). The interface isn’t as good as Apture’s, either, because it makes the reader click on a “preview here” button; clicking on the link itself just takes you to the other site, like a normal link.

But there are a couple elements that make Zemanta Balloons sound promising. First, they’re open source, which means bloggers and developers can take the code and build additional features. Second, they seem like a good fit for Zemanta’s core product — Zemanta uses semantic technology to recommend links, images, and other content as you write a blog post. Now it can also provide a better way to link to that content, too. Plus, Balloons is free.

Zemanta has raised a total of $1.5 million in funding from Union Square Ventures, T.A.G., and Eden Ventures, and it says it’s closing a new round.

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