The internet search and and services giant Google has just acquired Metaweb, a company that focuses on “help[ing] site owners, bloggers, and developers make their sites richer and more engaging.”
Metaweb is perhaps best known for its massive open database of people, places, and things called Freebase. Google intends to integrate this information into its search algorithms to boost its ability to accept search queries more like questions, and to provide smart contextual information based on the synthesis of the search input. Metaweb is to help Google do this is a bigger and better way.
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Of course, if Google does fully execute on that vision, it seems that they would be walking closer to the domain of WolframAlpha. It remains to be seen if Google will take a similar route in the future as WolframAlpha has, or if the integration of Metaweb into Google will yield something completely distinct.
In their own words:
Over time we’ve improved search by deepening our understanding of queries and web pages. 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. Today, we’ve acquired Metaweb, a company that maintains an open database of things in the world. Working together we want to improve search and make the web richer and more meaningful for everyone.
With efforts like rich snippets and the search answers feature, we’re just beginning to apply our understanding of the web to make search better. Type [barack obama birthday] in the search box and see the answer right at the top of the page. Or search for [events in San Jose] and see a list of specific events and dates. We can offer this kind of experience because we understand facts about real people and real events out in the world. But 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.
In addition to our ideas for search, we’re also excited about the possibilities for Freebase, Metaweb’s free and open database of over 12 million things, including movies, books, TV shows, celebrities, locations, companies and more. Google and Metaweb plan to maintain Freebase as a free and open database for the world. Better yet, 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.
We look forward to working with the talented Metaweb team. We’ll be sure to share details on our progress in the coming months. In the meantime, if you’re interested to learn more about Metaweb’s technology, we encourage you to check out a helpful video they’ve posted on their blog.
Financial terms of the deal are not immediately known. As more information becomes availble, we will update this post.