Google is shuttering Freebase, a community-curated database of well-known people, places, and things, and providing a tool that will enable its data to be imported into the Wikidata project. Originally started by a company called Metaweb, Google became Freebase’s owner when the search giant acquired Metaweb in 2010.
In a Google+ post yesterday, the Freebase team explained its decision to hand Freebase data over to Wikidata:
“When we publicly launched Freebase back in 2007, we thought of it as a ‘Wikipedia for structured data.’ So it shouldn’t be surprising that we’ve been closely watching the Wikimedia Foundation’s project Wikidata since it launched about two years ago. We believe strongly in a robust community-driven effort to collect and curate structured knowledge about the world, but we now think we can serve that goal best by supporting Wikidata — they’re growing fast, have an active community, and are better-suited to lead an open collaborative knowledge base.”
In March 2015, Freebase will become read-only, a Wikidata import review tool will be released, and Freebase will announce a plan for transitioning the Freebase Search API to an API powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph. By the end of June, the Freebase website and APIs will be retired — and the final dump of Freebase data, which is offered under a Creative Commons Attribution License, will be released.
As One API Retires, Another Is Set to Enter Service
Google is no stranger to retiring services and APIs, but its decision to shutter Freebase and contribute its data to Wikidata isn’t a typical Google retirement. While Freebase will be going away as a standalone entity, Google’s transitioning of the Freebase Search API to the Knowledge Graph-based solution will be worth keeping an eye on.
Google launched its Knowledge Graph in 2012 and, at the time, the company stated that it contained more than 3.5 billion facts culled from public sources like Freebase, Wikipedia, and the CIA World Factbook, as well as its own proprietary search index and analysis of Google Search activity.
Up until now, Google has not offered API access to its Knowledge Graph, so when Google announces its plans in March, we could be in for one of Google’s most substantial and important API announcements of the new year.