Freebase: The Stem Of A Global Brain?
People have some good things to say about Freebase, the collaborative wiki-style open database still in alpha testing. None have better things to say than its proprietor, who says his goal is to be a database of the world’s knowledge.
Hmmm…that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not the same as Google’s plan to index the world’s information. See how different that is?
But what Freebase (free + database, get it? Oh, those clever punsters) does differently – and they better hope Google doesn’t beat them to this – is that it pulls from every open database on the web, and Wikipedia as well, and puts them together in a neat relational environment.
So in effect, repeating the example given by OpenBusiness, a person could give a direct and complicated commands like "Find me child-friendly dentists within 10 miles of my home," and expect an answer.
Or, to fun it up a little, if you were just certain there was a connection between Ross Perot and Area 51 (the ears give him away), you could look for all photos of Ross Perot in the 1940’s and compare them to a decade later, and check those pictures against Roswell, New Mexico sightings, documents, whereabouts of the Pentavirate, known Illuminati and Mason agents, and planet alignments, you could do so.
Even if everybody already knows he’s actually and elf.
Danny Hills, the brains behind the Freebase operation touts his endeavor as a "Wikipedia for data," that includes both structured and semi-structured data from government, schools, businesses, restaurants, and products.
Hills is running the show under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which allows people to use the data in Freebase for any purpose as long as they give attribution. This approach, Hills believes, will spur the growth of the project.
Back in March, Tim O’Reilly predicted that Freebase would "huge" and "addictive." He notes that skeptics would write off the site as a "bastard child of Wikipedia and the Open Directory Project."
And yet and yet, he continues:
If Metaweb gets this right, this bottom up approach will build new connections between data, new categories and ways of thinking. It will likely be messy and contradictory for a while, but…they are building new synapses for the global brain.
And then come the robots.