Deals

Google acquires MetaWeb, says Freebase will become “more open”

Google has acquired Benchmark-backed Metaweb to improve the structure in its search results.

Over the past few years, Google has evolved beyond the “10 blue links” paradigm (where search results delivered only simple links) and begun breaking out specialty news, video or data snippets atop search results. Metaweb’s Freebase database catalogues more than 12 million objects like movies, books, TV shows and locations.

“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,” Google said in a blog post.

Google says the database will still remain open and free for use by other developers, and it’s encouraging other companies to contribute to the dataset.

Metaweb raised close to $57 million in two rounds, with the most recent one at the beginning of 2008. The considerable round of funding came at a time when investors were betting that a more powerful, “semantic” Web would emerge — and of course, before the global financial crisis.

That dream is still in the making, but several companies are making stabs at it. Google’s emerging rival Facebook recently announced the Open Graph, a way to map all objects on the web like movies and places and peoples’ relationships to them. The metadata required for this would create a rival structure to what Metaweb has built. And because Facebook has the “like” data recording the preferences of its 500 millions users, it would be in the best position to harness the metadata to create a compelling search product.