Type of site
|Owner||Metaweb Technologies (Google)|
|Launched||3 March 2007|
|Current status||Offline (since 2 May 2016), succeeded by Wikidata|
|Creative Commons Attribution License|
Freebase was a large collaborative knowledge base consisting of data composed mainly by its community members. It was an online collection of structured data harvested from many sources, including individual, user-submitted wiki contributions. Freebase aimed to create a global resource that allowed people (and machines) to access common information more effectively. It was developed by the American software company Metaweb and ran publicly beginning in March 2007. Metaweb was acquired by Google in a private sale announced 16 July 2010. Google's Knowledge Graph was powered in part by Freebase.
Both Graphd and MQL, the graph database and JSON-based query language developed by Metaweb for Freebase, have been open-sourced by Google under the Apache 2.0 license, and are available on GitHub. Graphd was open-sourced on September 8, 2018. MQL was open-sourced on August 4, 2020.
On 3 March 2007 Metaweb 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 a database model using Wikipedia-turned-database or entity-relationship model, Freebase provided an interface that allowed non-programmers to fill in structured data, or metadata, of general information and to categorize or connect data items in meaningful, semantic ways.
Freebase contained data harvested from sources such as Wikipedia, NNDB, Fashion Model Directory and MusicBrainz, as well as data contributed by its users. The structured data was licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License,  and a JSON-based HTTP API was provided to programmers for developing applications on any platform to utilize the Freebase data. The source code for the Metaweb application itself was proprietary.
Freebase ran on a database infrastructure created in-house by Metaweb that used a graph model: Instead of using tables and keys to define data structures, Freebase defined its data structure as a set of nodes and a set of links that established relationships between the nodes. Because its data structure was non-hierarchical, Freebase could model much more complex relationships between individual elements than a conventional database, and it was open for users to enter new objects and relationships into the underlying graph. Queries to the database were made in Metaweb Query Language (MQL) and served by a triplestore called graphd.
Danny Hillis first described his idea for creating a knowledge web he called Aristotle in a paper in 2000, but he said he did not try to build the system until he had recruited technical experts. Veda Hlubinka-Cook, an expert in parallel computing, became Metaweb's Executive Vice President for Product. Kurt Bollacker brought deep expertise in distributed systems, database design, and information retrieval to his role as Chief Scientist at Metaweb. John Giannandrea, formerly Chief Technologist at Tellme Networks and Chief Technologist of the Web browser group at Netscape/AOL, was Chief Technology Officer.
Originally accessible by invitation only, Freebase opened full anonymous read access to the public in its alpha stage of development and later required registration only for data contributions.
On 29 October 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.
Organization and policy
Freebase's subjects were called "topics", and the data stored about them depended on their "type", as to how they were 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. As of January 2014[update], Freebase had approximately 44 million topics and 2.4 billion facts.
Freebase's types were themselves user-editable. Each type had 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.
However, Freebase differed from the wiki model in many ways. User-created types were not adopted in the "public commons" until promoted by a Metaweb employee. Also, users could not modify each other's types. The reason Freebase could not open up permissions of schemas is that external applications relied on them; thus, changing a type's schema – for instance by deleting a property or changing a simple property – might have broken queries for API users and even within Freebase itself, for example in saved views.
On 16 December 2014, the Freebase team officially announced that the website and the application programming interface would be shut down by 30 June 2015. Google provided an update on 16 December 2015 that they would discontinue the Freebase API and widget 3 months after a Suggest widget replacement was launched in early 2016.
- "Freebase". Google Plus. 16 December 2014. Archived from the original on 20 March 2019.
- Tanon, Thomas; Vrandečić, Denny; Sebastian, Schaffert; Thomas, Steiner; Lydia, Pintscher (2016). From Freebase to Wikidata: The Great Migration. WWW '16: Proceedings of the 25th International Conference on World Wide Web. Republic and Canton of Geneva,Switzerland Conferences Steering Committee: International World Wide Web. pp. 1419–1428. doi:10.1145/2872427.287480910.1145/2872427.2874809. ISBN 978-1-4503-4143-1. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
- Markoff, John (2007-03-09). "Start-up Aims for Database to Automate Web Searching". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-09.
- Menzel, Jack (July 16, 2010). "Deeper Understanding with Metaweb". Google Official Blog. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
- Singhal, Amit (May 16, 2012). "Introducing the Knowledge Graph: Things, Not Strings". Google Official Blog. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
- "So long and thanks for all the data!". 2 May 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
- "graphd project on github.com". 1 October 2019. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
- "pymql project on github.com". 15 September 2020. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
- 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.
- Meyer, Scott (April 8, 2008). "A Brief Tour of Graphd". blog.freebase.com. Archived from the original on May 30, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
- Hillis, W. Daniel (2000). ""Aristotle" (the Knowledge Web)". Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- Taylor, Jamie (October 30, 2008). "Introducing the Freebase RDF service". Archived from the original on May 16, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
- "Arnold Schwarzenegger". Freebase. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- "Explore Freebase Data". www.freebase.com. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
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