Google Metaweb: Semantic Open Linked Data Boost


Freebase has been built by a community that loves open data.  For many first time visitors to the site, the words “An entity graph of people, places and things” might not sound sexy or form any mental association with improved ecommerce but the announcement that Google acquired Metaweb woke a few people up.

The  Freebase blog announced Metaweb joins Google saying nothing would change other than “getting better, and yes, even more open”.  The hope is that the announcement will encourage even more individuals, institutions and companies to use and contribute to Freebase..

Why? Everyone involved in web commerce will benefit from the linking and reuse of open data.  By combining the ongoing development of core semantic technologies with new innovative ways of making the web smarter, such as linking  entities, there will be a sustainable improvement in efficiency and accuracy.  Here is Metaweb’s explanation of what an entity is.

I’ll let you work out for yourself how the fundamentals might improve your business model.


The importance of Things, marking things up and why.

What next if you are in business?

If  that sparked the neurons and opened your mind up to  a wealth of possibilities you’ll be jumping for joy to find out that semantic  ecommerce developments are well under way and a common ontology model (structured set of facts)  for describing products or services (making a product entity?) is already being used with success.   Search engines other than G have been reusing linked data for a while.

As it says at the GoodRelations data space

GoodRelations is a standardized vocabulary for product, price, and company data that can (1) be embedded into existing static and dynamic Web pages and that (2) can be processed by other computers. This increases the visibility of your products and services in the latest generation of search engines, recommender systems, and other novel applications.

From an SEO perspective this is a game changer because the ecommerce data layer is all about verifiable facts from verifiable sources.  In a busy world would you want more words than you can verify instantly?    You can still add a human readable description but at this point in time the focus seems to be on providing the basics for a transaction to occur … but the opportunities are there.  It is very much a case of ‘work with the web and let the web do the rest’.

Here is a cloudofdata.com podcast from February, 2010 where Paul Miller talks about GoodRelations, with Martin Hepp, and Jamie Taylor of Metaweb.  Listening to it is recommended for developers and others who want a better grasp of the capabilities of the web of data for buying and selling anything.   Second generation affiliate marketing will sound good to a few people I can think of as will open linked advertising space 🙂

Also interesting in this interview was what Martin Hepp who (if you’ve not heard the name before is seen as one of the global thought-leaders on The Semantic Web)  said Freebase could be with a minimal tweak.  Professor Hepp will be speaking at the International Search Summit in October.

Those who are beginning to understand the possibilities that the  linked data/ semantic web presents could also look at Triplify as a way of beginning to expose other content for use by the web.  My word of warning is to read the ‘about’ page at Triplify and understand issues on exposing private data.  I was surprised how easy it was to implement.

What can The Semantic Web do for us?

Probably the best way of seeing for yourself is to watch Tim Berners-Lee‘s 2010 Ted Talk The year open data went worldwide These are some of the results just one year after his initial call for ‘Raw Data Now’. Impressive.  People helped all that happen

Now imagine if your business or organisation worked with every other business and organisation in other sectors or regions and you all shared common and open data using currently available structured methods.

Do you think the people developing exciting new applications using open source licensing might just do some very interesting things with your data that can help you become more web effective or even work in a more sustainable way?

Don’t Just Dip Your Toe In

Jump in … the water is warm, the swell is building and these little waves already have momentum but it’s not too deep yet.  Take heart from the fact there isn’t yet a community ‘how to guide’ (at least I haven’t found one yet) that helps every one at any level understand just how big the pay off can be by just doing the basics now and then implementing the improvements learnt during the crawling stage.

Come to think of it there isn’t a common starting guide that all applications link to.  Effectively the book is still being written at all levels in all sectors for the new web and it could be said that virtually everyone will have to learn to adjust how they swim or float because of a positive change in web buoyancy.

and Google ….

As more people like you and I start making custom searches from our desktops and mobile devices using an ever increasing range of open search data sources and apps, I have an image in my head of G people having meetings.   Upon meetings.

I can only hope that G treat the web of linked open data to more respect than they have shown some of their customers by banning some of them for breaking rules that are not published or open and with no right of correction or appeal.  Even G have to work with the web and the web has the potential to be a great leveller.

Kevin Polley has been involved with computers and the internet since 1997. Apart from being an accomplished ecommerce consultant he is also highly experienced in Organic Search Engine Optimization techniques.

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