Google said it has purchasedMetaweb, whose Freebase open-source database catalogs 12 million movies, books, TV shows, celebrities, locations and companies, among other data sets.
Freebase maps the relationship of real-world entities, or people, places and objects, to deliver relevant answers. Metaweb provides widgets and custom integrations of this semantic search technology for content providers.
Metaweb, according to this demo, uses existing relational context to suss out users’ intend in their searches where several different words may be used to query against one entity.
Google intends to use Freebase to help quickly bring Web searchers accurate answers to questions that are tough for a computer to answer.
Specifically, Google will use the Freebase assets to improve existing search tools such as rich snippets and searches for factual answers.
Google Director of Product Management Jack Menzel explained in a blog postthat while users can currently find answers such as President Barack Obama’s birthday or specific events happening in a city, there are additional layers of search and fact finding Google’s existing technology could not serve.
“We can offer this kind of experience because we understand facts about real people and real events out in the world. But what about [colleges on the west coast with tuition under $30,000] or [actors over 40 who have won at least one Oscar]? These are hard questions, and we’ve acquired Metaweb because we believe working together we’ll be able to provide better answers.”
The buy also comes nearly two years after Microsoft acquired Powerset to help its Bing search engine bridge the semantic Web.
Powerset provided search results from a multitude of articles from Wikipedia and, ironically enough, the Freebase database Google now owns.
In that vein, it is fair to question whether Google will tinker with Microsoft Bing’s existing use of Freebase. Menzel said Google and Metaweb plan to maintain Freebase as a free and open database and want other Web companies to use and contribute to the data.
“We believe that by improving Freebase, it will be a tremendous resource to make the Web richer for everyone,” Menzel explained. “And to the extent the Web becomes a better place, this is good for webmasters and good for users.”
Translation: Neither Bing nor anyone else threatens our search empire.
However, Freebase said in a blog post it is not taking on new content partners as it seeks to help Google “link content with entities.”
The buy comes two weeks after Google moved to purchase ITA Software for $700 million, a deal that is soon to face scrutiny from federal regulators.