Future Web: Freebase – killing Google with semantic precision?

Freebase Parallax: A new way to browse and explore data from David Huynh on Vimeo.

FACT: There are some projects, which want to be Google killers – for good reasons. But Google’s advance in user base, intellectual property , human capital and financial power is discouraging.

Is this a hot summer for so called Google killers? Some days ago Cuil (spell “cool”) was launched. They are searching 121,617,892,992 web pages, the front page says. That must be the “Deep Web”, which we analysts and researcher would like so much to have on our fingertips. But the galactic volume of the index is worth nothing, when other factors are not in tune. And keep in mind the immense power of Google. They have and hold the user base, Yahoo and MSN only knocking at the door …

CONTEXT: Desparately searching the weakness of market dominant search company Google

A lot of people worldwide think about the Achilles heel of Google – and may be there is more than one. Just remind the privacy issue and the (knowledge) power concentration which is unprecedented in history. It would be devastating for Google’s business model, if the users are seriously losing trust.

“Google is slowly embracing a full-blown behavioral targeting over its vast network of services and sites,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. He said that Google, through its vast data collection and sophisticated data analysis tools, “knows more about consumers than practically anyone.” August 12, 2008 Web firms acknowledge tracking behavior without consent – Los Angeles Time

Not to forget that Google is more than search, it is an empire of free services today – e.g. millions of users give a lot of more or less sensitive data to the mail, calender and spreadsheet services of Google. And think of the coming Google Health – finally the perfect opportunity to show costly ads for Viagra, Cialis etc.

PRODUCT: FREEBASE/PARALLAX (the semantic web revolution committee proudly presents .-)

Parallax, a novel browsing interface designed by David Huynh to manipulate Freebase, shows how contextual connections can be made with machine readable data to provide a much richer results set which in turn can spawn fascinating visual representations, and more.

Freebase is the foundational 800lb gorilla in the semantic space, quietly building momentum to create a ‘global knowledge base: a structured, searchable, writeable and editable database built by a community of contributors, and open to everyone….It could be described as a data commons’. … August 12, 2008 The Future of the Web | ZDNet.com

RELEVANCE: It’s all about relevance, stupid! In an info tsunami world findability and relevance are key.

Google search of today is so Gutenberg – what you get is … pages! Stupid web pages, where you have to scroll a lot or have to use the page search of your browser. In the future this will change and we actually will have units of knowledge, more fine-grained than narrative text pages. And now please enjoy the Freebase Parallax video. It is impressive. If you are a bit bored by the rather academic example (American history) please think about a search process in your business context and what the smart features of Parallax could do for you.


As a future researcher I strive to keep in mind the big picture, being rather tolerant with some weaknesses of a promising approach or tool under development. Recommended readings for a deeper understanding of Metaweb’s Freebase:

  • Freebase Parallax Taunts Us With Awesome Semantic Web Video – ReadWriteWeb (August 13, 2008) – Marshall Kirkpatrick points to the critical gap between the video demo and the actual state of Freebase concerning content coverage. You can try things for yourself here, but should not expect to use it like Google with any question in mind: Freebase Parallax
  • Freebase: Dispelling The Skepticism – ReadWriteWeb (May 28, 2008) – Alex Iskolds interesting point: “When it comes to defining the meanings of things, Freebase is focused on community, with collective editing, attribution, and collaboratively built semantics. This last point is quite crucial – the founders of Freebase believe that meaning has to emerge from the collaboration between users. As such, Freebase is one of the first experiments of web-scale social contracts.” – Some comment: I like crowdsourcing, but the problem is, that there is no Moore’s Law concerning the performance of the “human processor”, the brains of the participants. The approach for the future web should be “distinctively hybrid” I suppose – with a lot of smart algorithms to keep pace with the accelerating (!) change dynamics of the web content and structures.


  • 2008-08-14 LT 10:11: UPDATE: MORE ABOUT FREEBASE
  • 2008-08-13 LT 01:06: some clarification in the last paragraph

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About WS

foresight expert, technology analyst, strategy consultant, speaker, facilitator

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