Today, Google shocked the pundit world by announcing that they have bought Metaweb, the company behind one of the largest structured database Freebase.
Over time we’ve improved search by deepening our understanding of queries and web pages. The web isn’t merely words—it’s information about things in the real world, and understanding the relationships between real-world entities can help us deliver relevant information more quickly. Today, we’ve acquired Metaweb, a company that maintains an open database of things in the world. Working together we want to improve search and make the web richer and more meaningful for everyone.
Freebase is a free and open database of over 12 million things, including movies, books, TV shows, celebrities, locations, companies and more. According to web pioneer Tim O’ Reilly ,
After all, is there really room for what at first glance appears to be a bastard child of wikipedia and the Open Directory Project, another site that purports to collect and organize all the world’s information in one place?
Freebase is actually what some used to call as “Web 3.0” product but many people know it as a part of Semantic Web where they give out their information objects as Linked Open Data via RDF. If you have grown up loving the web inventer Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s ideas about web of data, you will know Freebase very well. Like DBpedia, Freebase also extracts structured data from Wikipedia and make RDF available but the difference is Freebase takes data from many different sources along with Wikipedia.
Even though it is too early to make a comprehensive analysis, this news is interesting to me for the following reasons.
- This is much more exciting than the excitement we had when Microsoft bought Powerset to infuse Semantic technology into their search. Freebase will help Google enhance their search results in a dramatic way, further bolstering its hold on the search engine market.
- So far, Google has focussed more on a statistical approach to Semantic Web. With this acquisition, they are taking a more structured approach to linking the web of data. I see it as an acknowledgement by Google that a structured approach to Semantic Web is very important. Again, it is my personal opinion and I would love to hear from Semantic Web experts like Paul Miller on this.
- At a more personal level, this will ensure that Freebase lives longer without buckling to market pressures as a service from a small company.
Sometime in the future, I might revisit this topic with a detailed analysis. This is a quick post to share my excitement on the news and offer some of my initial thoughts. If you follow Semantic Web market closely, feel free to add your thoughts here in the comments.
Update 1: The best tweet I have come across so far is from Ian Davis, CTO of Talis.
hope google’s acquisition of #freebase does for interconnected, structured data what the youtube acq did for video on the web.
Update 2: Here is a video introducing Metaweb (Thanks to @ciscomobile for the link)