Freebase and the Semantic Web (aka Web 3.0)

Tim O’Reilly (founder of O’Reilly Media) took a look at a new service called Freebase which a vanguard of the Semantic Web (aka Web 3.0 – let’s try not to use this term though?). I have applied for an account (the service is still in testing) and will really give it a go if/when I receive an invitation to try it out but based on O’Reilly’s post, Freebase is a mix between Google and Wikipedia in form and with added semantic functionality. If you read O’Reilly’s post you’ll read about a search he did on his company. There were some empty fields in the search results (which included the fact that O’Reilly Media is a company) which he completed with details of the company’s registration and place of business as well as its subsidiary companies. These edits created entries in Freebase for those subsidiary companies themselves. He did comment that the service isn’t quite right though. He edited the entry on "Tim O’Reilly" he expected that it would have updated the entry on himself and it didn’t. It may even have created a new entry under that name.

Freebase has also been discussed in the same sentence as Google (Freebase also has the goal of organising the world’s information) although what sets Freebase apart is that it adds structure to the data it collects and organises whereas search engines typically rely on their algorithms. asks whether Freebase is a Google-killer or an over-hyped startup? I wouldn’t say it is an over-hyped startup unless that hype includes the notion that this is the beginning of the end for Google. Google still has a few things up its sleeve including its own equivalent service called Google Base:

Google Base is a place where you can easily submit all types of online and offline content, which we’ll make searchable on Google (if your content isn’t online yet, we’ll put it there). You can describe any item you post with attributes, which will help people find it when they do related searches. In fact, based on your items’ relevance, users may find them in their results for searches on Froogle, Google Maps and even our main Google web search.

Google Base is a free service that enables you to submit up to 20MB of your data in 15 different file formats for inclusion in the database.

The example in the screenshots on the Google Base site is a recipe submission and you can see from the next screenshot how various attributes can be added to a submission.

This is where the wiki-style editing comes in. You, as a user of the service, gets to add attributes which have meaning for you to an item in the database (this is also something Freebase permits). It also provides an RSS feed for searches so you can track submissions based on your search criteria. I wonder how much you could start to use this service much as you would track items in Technorati? It would be interesting to see how the results measure up.

It is pretty easy to submit content of your own. I noticed that there isn’t much about chilibean so I added an entry myself. The entry is categorised as a company profile:

I can see how posting content to Google Base could quickly become addictive. It is really easy to add the content to the site. I don’t really see how a user would add attributes to existing entries though so my comments about adding attributes seem to be limited to items you have already posted. On one hand this can be a good thing because it limits opportunities for vandalism but on the other hand it limits how useful the service can be because other users can’t add attributes about the entry that have meaning for them and possibly many others.

This is definitely a space to keep an eye on going forward. In the meantime, this is a good opportunity to add entries about yourselves and your businesses to the database and add some "local is lekker" to the mix.

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