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Google bags Metaweb for search future

The web is more than words

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Google has acquired Metaweb Technologies, a five-year-old San Francisco startup that maintains a massive open database that details all sorts of real-world stuff in an effort to "build a smarter, more connected Internet."

According to a Google blog post, it sees the Metaweb database — dubbed Freebase — as a path to a kind of semantic web search. "Over time we’ve improved search by deepening our understanding of queries and web pages," Google said. "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...

"Working [with Metaweb], we want to improve search and make the web richer and more meaningful for everyone."

Freebase stores information on over 11 million "things in the world," including movies, books, TV shows, celebrities, locations, and companies. The company was set up to help customers use this data to enhance the design of their websites. "Metaweb is a service that helps you build your website around entities and not just words," the company says in a video describing its operation.

Ah, yes, the oft-repeated promise of the so-called semantic web. As an example, the video says that netizens have been known to refer to the University of California at Berkeley in about 50 different ways — 50 different pieces of text. Metaweb strives to connect those 50 different pieces of text to a single entity. And it works to document the relationships between such entities.

"Because entities represent unique, real-life things, we can build a map that shows how they're related, so you can look for things that share certain attributes, like actresses. That are under twenty. From New York.

"Can you imagine trying to do that with a keyword search?"

Well, Google can. With Metaweb, Mountain View hopes to improve keyword searches. "We’ve acquired Metaweb because we believe working together we’ll be able to provide better answers [to search queries]," Mountain View said.

Google also said it will continue to maintain Freebase for public use. "We plan to contribute to and further develop Freebase and would be delighted if other web companies 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. And to the extent the web becomes a better place, this is good for webmasters and good for users." ®

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