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.

Wikipedia chief Wales becomes co-chair of UK carrier The People’s Operator

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has gone into the mobile carrier business, buying a stake in and becoming co-chair of The People’s Operator. TPO, which is little more than a year old, is a community-oriented UK operator that passes 10 percent of customers’ bills and 25 percent of TPO profits to “good causes” (Wired UK has a good interview with Wales that goes into cause selection). The virtual network operator also said said on Monday that it would launch in the U.S. next. “TPO has huge potential for viral growth and the more it grows, the more money will pass to the people and communities that need it,” said Wales.