Freebase, the open and shared database of the world’s knowledge, has raised a whopping amount of money in its Series B round of funding, $42 Million, in a round that included Benchmark Capital and Goldman Sachs. Total funding to date is $57 million.
The investment is considerable, and comes at a time when a number of experts are betting that a more powerful, “semantic” Web is about to emerge, where data about information is much more structured than it is today.
In March 2006, Freebase received $15 million in funding from investors including Benchmark Capital, Millennium Technology Ventures and Omidyar Network.
Freebase, created by Metaweb Technologies, is an open database of the world’s information. It’s built by the community and for the community – free for anyone to query, contribute to, build applications on top of, or integrate into their websites.
Already, Freebase covers millions of topics in hundreds of categories. Drawing from large open data sets like Wikipedia, MusicBrainz, and the SEC archives, it contains structured information on many popular topics, including movies, music, people and locations – all reconciled and freely available via an open API. This information is supplemented by the efforts of a passionate global community of users who are working together to add structured information on everything from philosophy to European railway stations to the chemical properties of common food ingredients.
By structuring the world’s data in this manner, the Freebase community is creating a global resource that will one day allow people and machines everywhere to access information far more easily and quickly than they can today.
Freebase aims to “open up the silos of data and the connections between them”, according to founder Danny Hillis at the Web 2.0 Summit. Freebase is a database that has all kinds of data in it and an API. Because it’s an open database, anyone can enter new data in Freebase. An example page in the Freebase db looks pretty similar to a Wikipedia page. When you enter new data, the app can make suggestions about content. The topics in Freebase are organized by type, and you can connect pages with links, semantic tagging. So in summary, Freebase is all about shared data and what you can do with it.
Here’s a video tour of how does Freebase work. Freebase categorizes knowledge according to thousands of “types” of information, such as film, director or city. Those are the highest order of categorization. Then underneath those types you have “topics,” which are individual examples of the types — such as Annie Hall and Woody Allen. It boasts two million topics to date. This lets Freebase represent information in a structured way, to support queries from web developers wanting to build applications around them. It also solicits people to contribute their knowledge to the database, governed by a community of editors. It offers a Creative Commons license so that it can be used to power applications, on an open API.
This is one of the biggest Series B rounds for the past 12 months. And probably what Google tries to do with its Knol to Wikipedia is the same what Freebase tries to achieve too – replicate and commercialize the huge success of the non-profit Wikipedia.
Other semantic applications and projects include Powerset, Twine, AdaptiveBlue, Hakia, Talis, LinkedWords, NosyJoe, TrueKnowledge, among others.
Peter Rip, an investor in Twine has quickly reacted on the comparison between the two Freebase and Twine the VentureBeat’s Matt Marshall made.
As an investor in Twine, allow me correct you about Twine and Metaweb’s positioning. You correctly point out that Metaweb is building a database about concepts and things on the Web. Twine is not. Twine is really more of an application than a database. It is a way for persons to share information about their interests. So they are complementary, not competitive.
What’s most important is that Twine will be able to use all the structure in something like Metaweb (and other content sources) to enrich the user’s ability to track and manage information. Think of Metaweb as a content repository and Twine as as the app that uses content for specific purposes.
Twine is still in closed beta. So the confusion is understandable, especially with all the hype surrounding the category.
Nova Spivack, the founder of Twine has also commented on.
Freebase and Twine are not competitive. That should be corrected in the above article. In fact our products are very different and have different audiences. Twine is for helping people and groups share knowledge around their interests and activities. It is for managing personal and group knowledge, and ultimately for building smarter communities of interest and smarter teams.
Metaweb, by contrast, is a data source that Twine can use, but is not focused on individuals or on groups. Rather Metaweb is building a single public information database, that is similar to the Wikipedia in some respects. This is a major difference in focus and functionality. To use an analogy, Twine is more like a semantic Facebook, and Metaweb is more like a semantic Wikipedia.
Freebase is in alpha.
Freebase.com was the first Semantic App being featured by Web2Innovations in its series of planned publications where we will try to discover, highlight and feature the next generation of web-based semantic applications, engines, platforms, mash-ups, machines, products, services, mixtures, parsers, and approaches and far beyond.
The purpose of these publications is to discover and showcase today’s Semantic Web Apps and projects. We’re not going to rank them, because there is no way to rank these apps at this time – many are still in alpha and private beta.