Semantic Web Mashups and Freebase

Want to see who influenced who in history? From Duchamp, to Freud, to Voltaire, to Einstein and others, yesterday's Mashup of the Day, Free Influencer, is one semantic web style way to see these connections. While the database of people appears to be just a small starter set at this point, the concept is promising.

This mashup is one of the first mashups we've listed built on top of the relatively new Freebase API. The Freebase service, from Metaweb Technologies, is "an

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.

It was founded by Danny Hillis and Robert Cook from Applied Minds, and with $42 million dollars is well funded. Tim O'Reilly earlier wrote that Freebase Will Prove Addictive:

What Metaweb is reaching for: a wikipedia like system for building the semantic web. But unlike 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.

Now, the really powerful thing about this is that all these categories, these data types and the web of fields that define them, provide new hooks for applications that will be able to extract meaning from the data. That's what makes Metaweb a kind of semantic web application.

Free Influencer describes itself as "a web site where you can search and discover people and more particularly their influence in a people network. All people, influence relationships between people, the descriptions, pictures are defined in Freebase, an open and shared database. As Freebase is open, you can add or modify any information, like for instance influence network." Given that the data set is small at this point, their help page encourages users to add to the data set in Freebase.

Since Freebase is a much more structured information store than Wikipedia and is Creative Commons licensed, over time we may start seeing a lot of interesting mashups built on this service.

Be sure to read the next Mashups article: 4 Spy Mashups - Watch in Realtime


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