Google is shutting down its Freebase knowledge base

Google announced Tuesday that the company is shutting down Freebase, the crowdsourced knowledge base it acquired in 2010 when it bought Metaweb. Freebase is a popular source of information about topics — more than 46 million of them — that can be searched, queried like a database and used to provide information to applications.

According to the Google+ post announcing Freebase’s fate, the project’s information will begin being exported to the Wikidata project by the end of March, and Freebase will be retired by June 30, 2015. Information from Freebase helped feed Google’s fast-growing Knowledge Graph, and Freebase developer APIs will be replaced by a set of Knowledge Graph-powered ones.

“We believe strongly in a robust community-driven effort to collect and curate structured knowledge about the world, but we now think we can serve that goal best by supporting Wikidata — they’re growing fast, have an active community, and are better-suited to lead an open collaborative knowledge base,” the post reads.

The real value of knowledges bases like Wikidata isn’t just the information — which is already available via Wikipedia in many cases — but the structured format it takes and, in the case of Google’s Knowledge graph, the semantic nature of it. Efforts to build smarter search engines, AI systems and even robots need places where their systems can go to learn more about the words they’re seeing or the objects they’re encountering, and they need it in a format they can read.

Today in Cloud

LinkedIn’s Daniel Tunkelang published an interesting post on his personal blog overnight. In it Tunkelang, who is no stranger to the challenges of working at scale with disparate data, asks “why haven’t we seen an encyclopaedic structured data repository comparable in scope [and] scale to Wikipedia?” He acknowledges widely cited examples in this space such as Freebase, DBpedia and (in comments) FluidInfo, but notes that “they have not achieved mainstream adoption.” Are we really happier to trust the views of strangers regarding Khalistan (a new discovery for me last night) than a definitive list of Harrison Ford’s films or U.S. Presidential terms of office? Why does ‘informed opinion’ appear to draw more contributors and consumers than tabulated fact? Is one, simply, more boring, or is something else at play?

Google Gets Semantic: Buys Metaweb

Google today announced it had acquired Metaweb Technologies, the ambitious startup building a database of all the web’s information called Freebase. Metaweb was yet another semantic web startup before its time, but with the help of Google it can potentially make a much bigger impact.