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For the chemistry term, see free base. For the musical band, see Freebass.
Freebase Logo optimised.svg
Web address
Commercial? No
Type of site
Online database
Registration Optional
Available in English
Content license
Creative Commons Attribution License
Owner Metaweb Technologies (Google)
Alexa rank
negative increase 18,151 (May 2014)[1]
Current status Active - Read only

Freebase is a large collaborative knowledge base consisting of data composed mainly by its community members. It is an online collection of structured data harvested from many sources, including individual, user-submitted wiki contributions.[2] Freebase aims to create a global resource which allows people (and machines) to access common information more effectively. It was developed by the American software company Metaweb and has been running publicly since March 2007. Metaweb was acquired by Google in a private sale announced July 16, 2010.[3] Google's Knowledge Graph is powered in part by Freebase.[4]

Freebase data is freely available for commercial and non-commercial use under a Creative Commons Attribution License, and an open API, RDF endpoint, and database dump are provided for programmers.

On 16 December 2014, the Knowledge Graph staff announced that it would be shutting down Freebase over the following six months.[5] Google will provide assistance to Freebase users who want to make Freebase assertions suitable for inclusion in Wikidata.


On March 3, 2007, Metaweb publicly announced Freebase, describing it as "an open shared database of the world's knowledge", and "a massive, collaboratively edited database of cross-linked data". Often understood as database model using Wikipedia-turned-database or entity-relationship model, Freebase provides an interface that allows non-programmers to fill in structured data, or metadata, of general information, and to categorize or connect data items in meaningful, semantic ways.

Described by Tim O'Reilly upon their launch, "Freebase is the bridge between the bottom up vision of Web 2.0 collective intelligence and the more structured world of the semantic web".[6]

Freebase contains data harvested from sources such as Wikipedia, NNDB, FMD and MusicBrainz, as well as individually contributed data from its users. The structured data is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, [6] and a JSON-based HTTP API is provided to programmers for developing applications on any platform to utilize the Freebase data. The source code for the Metaweb application itself is proprietary.

Freebase runs on a database infrastructure created in-house by Metaweb that uses a graph model. This means that instead of using tables and keys to define data structures, Freebase defines its data structure as a set of nodes and a set of links that establish relationships between the nodes. Because its data structure is non-hierarchical, Freebase can model much more complex relationships between individual elements than a conventional database[citation needed], and is open for users to enter new objects and relationships into the underlying graph. Queries to the database are made in Metaweb Query Language (MQL) and served by a triplestore called graphd.[7]


Danny Hillis first described his idea for creating a knowledge web he called Aristotle in a paper in 2000.[8] But he said he did not try to build the system until he had recruited two technical experts as co-founders. Robert Cook, in parallel computing and database design, is Metaweb's executive vice president for product development. John Giannandrea, formerly chief technologist at Tellme Networks and chief technologist of the Web browser group at Netscape/AOL, is the company's chief technology officer.[9]

Originally accessible by invitation only, Freebase opened full anonymous read access to the public in its alpha stage of development, and now requires registration only for data contributions.

On October 29, 2008, at the International Semantic Web Conference 2008, Freebase released its RDF service for generating RDF representations of Freebase topics, allowing Freebase to be used as linked data.[10]

Organization and policy[edit]

Freebase's subjects are called topics and the data stored about them depend on their type, how they are classified. For example, an entry for Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, would be entered as a topic that would include a variety of types describing him as an actor, bodybuilder, and politician.[11] As of January 2014, Freebase has approximately 44 million topics and 2.4 billion facts.[12]

Freebase's types are themselves user-editable.[6] Each type has a number of defined predicates, called "properties".

[U]nlike the W3C approach to the semantic web, which starts with controlled ontologies, Metaweb adopts a folksonomy approach, in which people can add new categories (much like tags), in a messy sprawl of potentially overlapping assertions.[6]

In this manner, Freebase differs from the wiki model in many ways. Users can create their own types, but these types aren't adopted in the "public commons" until promoted by a Metaweb employee. As well, users cannot modify each other's types. The reason Freebase can't open up permissions of schemas is because external apps rely on them; thus changing a type's schema, for instance by deleting a property or changing a simple property, might break queries for API users and even within Freebase itself, in saved views, for example.

Metaweb promotes some users to "expert status", similar to Wikipedia's administrator policy, who are given some admin permissions.[13]

The underlying data storage supports multilingual data, but as of 2011 every user's display language was set to English. This will change at some point.[citation needed]

As of 2011, the only access is via Metaweb Query Language (MQL).[14]

Business and community[edit]

The Freebase system is built and patented[15][16] by Metaweb, a for-profit company,[17] that has been acquired by Google.[18]

In terms of Freebase's relationship with the open data community:

...we have no formal relationship with other open data projects. Though the definition of open data is pretty loose, we try to follow general open data principles by not restricting access to Freebase information to registered users, charging users to access our information, imposing restrictive licenses over the use of Freebase information, or using proprietary or closed technology as a barrier to accessing Freebase information.[19]

Freebase is planning formal mappings of some of their types to established ontologies like FOAF, though this is not a priority.[10]

In the future, the company hopes to also generate profit by organizing proprietary data.[20]


Bulk import tools
They are used internally at Metaweb, but the reconciliation process for imported data has so far proved too complicated for public release, and public bulk tools are very limited.[21]
Multilingual implementation
Freebase has translations (or translation support) of many of its topics, but its types are currently implemented (or at least described) in natural language English, leading to challenges in developing a universal schema.


On 16 December 2014, the Freebase team officially announced[22] that the website and the API will be shut down by 30 June 2015. Some Freebase information may be transferred to Wikidata.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Freebase - Alexa". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Markoff, John (2007-03-09). "Start-up Aims for Database to Automate Web Searching". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-09. 
  3. ^ Menzel, Jack (July 16, 2010). "Deeper Understanding with Metaweb". Google Official Blog. Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  4. ^ Singhal, Amit (May 16, 2012). "Introducing the Knowledge Graph: Things, Not Strings]". Google Official Blog. Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Freebase". Google Plus. 16 December 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d O'Reilly, Tim (March 8, 2007). "Freebase Will Prove Addictive". O'Reilly Radar (O'Reilly Media). Archived from the original on October 14, 2008. Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  7. ^ Meyer, Scott (April 8, 2008). "A Brief Tour of Graphd". Archived from the original on May 30, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  8. ^ Hillis, W. Daniel (2000). ""Aristotle" (the Knowledge Web)". Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  9. ^ Markoff, John (2007-03-09). "Start-Up Aims for Database to Automate Web Searching". New York Times (the New York Times Company). Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  10. ^ a b Taylor, Jamie (October 30, 2008). "Introducing the Freebase RDF service". Archived from the original on May 16, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Arnold Schwarzenegger". Freebase. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  12. ^ "Explore Freebase Data". Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  13. ^ Robert, Kirrily "Skud" (August 29, 2008). "Freebase's New Experts Programme". Archived from the original on February 17, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  14. ^ Maden, Christopher R. "crism" (December 4, 2007). "Internationalization in Freebase". Archived from the original on March 9, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Patent US7502770". Google Patents. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  16. ^ US 7502770, Hillis, Daniel, "Patent US7502770", published 2009-03-10 
  17. ^ "Investors". Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  18. ^ "Google Makes Major Semantic Web Play, Acquires Freebase Operators Metaweb". ReadWrite. 2010-07-16. Retrieved 2013-12-06. 
  19. ^ "FAQ". Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  20. ^ "Sharing What Matters – Software: A computing maverick hopes to upgrade the web, transforming it from a document collection into a data commons". Monitor. The Economist Technology Quarterly. June 7, 2007. Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  21. ^ Culbertson, Bryan (December 14, 2007). "List Importer". Archived from the original on April 17, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2014. [dead link]
  22. ^ "Freebase blog". Google Knowledge Graph Team. 16 December 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 

External links[edit]