With the help of Thomas I got invited to the freebase alpha program. In a short sentence I would say, that freebase is the semantic extension of wikipedia. That means, that freebase does not only have “objects” like wikipedia, it additionally has a hierarchy for these objects, relations between the objects, and common object attributes.
I.e. freebase “knows”: Austria is a country, Vienna is a city. A city is contained in a country - for Vienna, Vienna is contained in Austria. In Austria the main language is german. Goes what lanuage is spoken in Vienna…
freebase knows it! Got the point?
So, setting up the “Ontology” on freebase is a little bit like object oriented analysis. And it is a huge job to do for all the world’s knowledge!
Like Tim O’Reilly wrote:
But hopefully, this narrative will give you a sense of what Metaweb is reaching for: a wikipedia like system for building the semantic web. But unlike the W3C approach to the semantic web, which starts with controlled ontologies, Metaweb adopts a folksonomy approach, in which people can add new categories (much like tags), in a messy sprawl of potentially overlapping assertions.
It is possibly the advantage of freebase to have this messy sprawl of assertions - and with this sprawl the support of all the editors of the “collective intelligence“. The other (MIT) approach is very academic (surprise, surprise) and hard to follow (RDF, GRDDL, SPARQL, ITL, Microformats…). They spend a lot of work in the representation of an ontology - but it seems to be time just to start, to define some interweavings. Who is actually using DublinCore now?
When the collection of data is done, all the relations are set, how can we use the freebase?
freebase offers an open and free-of-charge API (MQL (like JSON) via HTTP) to use the data under common creative license where ever you want.
- freebase is driven by the company Metaweb, what happens to the data when something happens to Metaweb, i.e. getting bought by Google?
- when lot’s of pages rely on the freebase service, how will they pay the traffic costs?