In a bid to improve its searching abilities, Google has acquired Metaweb, a semantic data startup known for developing Freebase, an open and shared information database.
Freebase pulls in all sorts of data from the Web and from user contributions. The collaborative knowledge base contains more than 12 million items, according to Google.
Over the past several years Google has been trying to be more than just a tool for finding Web sites. The search giant knows that when people search, they usually don’t want a Web site; they want the information contained in those Web sites.
Last year Google began increasing the amount of pure info contained in its search snippets by adding things like customer ratings and pricing data culled from the Web and its own databases. In May Google began public testing of Google Squared, which attempts to find and organize structured data found online.
Google already gives users specific pieces of information, such as Barack Obama’s birthday, but with the acquisition of Metaweb, the company wants to answer more complex questions.
“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,” wrote Jack Menzel, Google’s Director of Product Management in a blog post.
Google says it plans to keep Freebase open and public, adding its own information to the slew of data on media, celebrities, locations, and companies already in there.
Metaweb Technologies, Inc. was founded in 2005 by former Disney Imagineer Danny Hillis and former Brøderbund game programmer Robert Cook in San Francisco. The startup flew below the radar until March 2007, when Freebase was announced.
To help people understand what Metaweb does, the company posted this video on Google’s YouTube: