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Google Acquires Metaweb

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the nothing-to-do-with-neal-stephenson dept.

Google 63

eldavojohn writes "A startup called Metaweb (looks like an ontological, entity-based approach to Web 2.0 tagging) has been acquired by Google. You can find out what they're about from a super marketing fluff video they put together. The neat thing about Metaweb is that the database of entities it has is free. Will Google be able to make Metaweb work on their omniscient scale, or was this just Google making sure a startup doesn't become yet another player in search?"

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Silly Logic (5, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32931708)

Will Google be able to make Metaweb work on their omniscient scale, or was this just Google making sure a startup doesn't become yet another player in search?"

If Metaweb doesn't work at Google's Scale, then it couldn't compete with them.

Re:Silly Logic (2, Insightful)

Svartalfar (867908) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932202)

This wouldn't be the first time a large company bought a start up to prevent it from possibly ever becoming a competitor though. Better to spend peanuts now to buy the possibility then spend a fortune later to fight off a competitor you didn't see coming.

Re:Silly Logic (1)

jbell730 (1586063) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932538)

Better to spend peanuts now to buy the possibility then spend a fortune later to fight off a competitor you didn't see coming.

See also: Microsoft.

Re:Silly Logic (1)

yppiz (574466) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935546)

This is a good point. I don't know if this was a factor in Google's acquisition, but Powerset (acquired by Microsoft and now part of Bing) uses Metaweb's Freebase.

Re:Silly Logic (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32943736)

Better to spend peanuts now to buy the possibility then spend a fortune later to fight off a competitor you didn't see coming.

If you didn't "see it coming" in five years from now, then you either didn't know of it's existence today, or you made an error of judgment today, or you forgot tomorrow what you knew of today. In which cases you still deserve to die (in a corporate sense) for being incompetent.
Sounds like this company/ idea has been around a while and Google have decided that their ideas/ technologies/ implementations are worth a good, close look at. Which, to be fair, is what the Evil Empire of Redmond are good at too.
The interesting question really is whether Google will squash them, incorporate them in their behind-the-scenes work, or make their technologies and ideas publicly usable. Time, as they say, will tell.

Re:Silly Logic (-1, Troll)

nobodylocalhost (1343981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932566)

This is a very basic Artificial Intelligence concept. I wonder how long until the Internet become self aware. Not only are data entities, but relationships between data are also entities. The final step is to automate all this and allow machines creating as well as ranking of indexed entities. Ever wonder what skynet is like? Well friends, this is it.

Re:Silly Logic (3, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932696)

I'm not sure how you got from "Machines automatically creating and ranking indexed entities" to "Destroy all humans" but I'm sure it involved an illegal substance.

Re:Silly Logic (3, Funny)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932734)

I'm not sure how you got from "Machines automatically creating and ranking indexed entities" to "Destroy all humans" but I'm sure it involved an illegal substance.

It's the AI that was supposed to index 4chan.

Re:Silly Logic (1)

nobodylocalhost (1343981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932896)

Simple, currently humans are integrated in this system. But we will eventually be phased out in favor of better performing and more efficient machines that don't generate as much repeated junk data (aka social media). It's a natural upgrade process.

Re:Silly Logic (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932996)

But the system is FOR humans - there'd be no need for a system without humans - I think thats the part of your theory that fails entirely. AI cannot be self serving.

Re:Silly Logic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32933150)

why not?

"Ontological" is a synonym for failure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32931712)

"Ontological" is a synonym for failure. Time after time after time after time we hear about how important the so-called "semantic web" is, yet it just doesn't take off. Why is that? Because it's useless, and nobody really wants it.

Re:"Ontological" is a synonym for failure. (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32931872)

I always thought "Ontological" was a synonym for a useless philosophy degree.

Re:"Ontological" is a synonym for failure. (2, Informative)

infinitelink (963279) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932154)

"Ontological" is an essential adjective for describing different aspects of knowledge (science); ontology for ordering it.

Re:"Ontological" is a synonym for failure. (1)

thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932910)

Well, a thousand years ago computer science would also have been a synonym for a useless philosophy degree.

Re:"Ontological" is a synonym for failure. (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932140)

The problem is that nobody wants to express information through RDF tuples and ontologies. Instead, they express information in human-readable text, with structural and visual markup. Search technology has come very far in terms of figuring out what information we actually want, with things like personalization, disambiguation (see DuckDuckGo for example), shopping/product search, and so on. All this stuff can be teased out of traditional web content with far less effort than trying to get every company and individual to express information through formal ontologies, etc.

So yeah, basically, the goals and use cases of the semantic web fall into two broad categories 1) stuff that data mining or search can do now and 2) stuff that requires hard AI or tons of human labor and thus won't be happening any time soon. This is why "ontologies" have become synonymous with fail.

Re:"Ontological" is a synonym for failure. (4, Insightful)

LarryRiedel (141315) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932264)

stuff that requires hard AI or tons of human labor and thus won't be happening any time soon.

Wikipedia.

Re:"Ontological" is a synonym for failure. (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 4 years ago | (#32937396)

... which is exactly what DuckDuckGo uses as its data source to handle disambiguation. But Wikipedia is structured for humans and features a large volume of knowledge in human language form with some basic markup. It's not a bunch of information encoded in RDF tuples. Thus my point. Trying to get everybody on the web to re-encode the vast body of knowledge out there in RDF, explicitly referencing ontologies is a setup for failure. Sure, you might use some sort of tuple format to internally store information that you parse out of the human-language web, but that's different from what the "semantic web" set out to be initially.

Re:"Ontological" is a synonym for failure. (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944292)

Aaahhh Wikipedia... the idea of collecting “facts” by determining how many idiots did not disagree.
Or in other words: Argumentum ad populum hard at work.

Re:"Ontological" is a synonym for failure. (1)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32933162)

This is why "ontologies" have become synonymous with fail.

So you're saying that Google bought a failure to save the rest of the world from it? It's the "tons of human labor" part that becomes the issue; it's bad enough trying to teach a human about semantics, let alone a pedantic automaton. Wake me up when an AI can disambiguate without me spending 45 minutes explaining the basics of English language.

Re:"Ontological" is a synonym for failure. (1)

yppiz (574466) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935574)

Early on, we knew we'd have to make a UI so that users could have as close to a free-text experience as possible while still contributing structured data. Freebase lets you create a topic that is generic, and then co-type it with multiple specific types later. It allows ontology geeks to do their thing, and regular users to just work where they are comfortable. It's a tough balance to strike, but Metaweb's Freebase was populated by a small team of data wranglers using a mix of automated methods and coordinated manual cleanup and entry, along with power users who were especially interested in particular data domains.

At one point I was really interested in submarines. I created a type describing the key characterists of subs and then spent a few days finding all the generic topics in Freebase on subs (many from Wikipedia) and filling them in. Others, either at Metaweb or outside, have done similar efforts on other domains.

Few contributors ever say or even have to consider ontologies. If they want to dig in, it's there, but almost never presented in a way that requires a PhD and a pipe.

Didn't see it coming. (5, Funny)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 4 years ago | (#32931740)

Everyone was thinking Google would take over the Web, and here they skip right past it and acquire the Metaweb.

Well played, Google, well played.

Re:Didn't see it coming. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32931820)

Before you know it, they'll move on from the web and acquire the mesh!

Re:Didn't see it coming. (5, Interesting)

IAmGarethAdams (990037) | more than 4 years ago | (#32931876)

I've been using Freebase integrations on a couple of sites, and the possibilities Freebase already offers for rich metadata integration is HUGE.

For example, a couple of their simple API samples are a list of Police songs from the Synchronicity album, ordered by track length [freebase.com] , or Graduates of Stanford born since 1960 who are board members of companies [freebase.com]

Re:Didn't see it coming. (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932702)

Holy shit that is cool.

I wonder if investigative reporters will be able to utilize this. Datamining for the little guy.

Re:Didn't see it coming. (2, Insightful)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932966)

Reading over all of this, I've been wondering what the hell metaweb is. Your couple sentences explained it better than the pages of text leading up to it by others. Showing, in this case, seems far better to telling in order to properly describe it. And holy shit is that awesome!

Re:Didn't see it coming. (1)

IAmGarethAdams (990037) | more than 4 years ago | (#32933178)

Well, Freebase is just an application of the Metaweb technologies. However, the storage and organisation of data (which is what the core of Metaweb is geared around) is useless without any means of retrieval

Re:Didn't see it coming. (1)

yppiz (574466) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935582)

Freebase makes their data available as free CC-licensed data dumps. You can import this into any database you want. There's no requirement for Metaweb's technology to use the data. It's just a very convenient way to do so!

Re:Didn't see it coming. (2, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932988)

Once you start freebasing, you just can't stop.

Re:Didn't see it coming. (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 4 years ago | (#32934706)

Everyone was thinking Google would take over the Web, and here they skip right past it and acquire the Metaweb.

Well played, Google, well played.

Well, they could have got the web for free - http://www.free-web.org/ [free-web.org]

I never metaweb (2, Funny)

abbynormal brain (1637419) | more than 4 years ago | (#32931812)

i didn't' like.

Woosh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32931848)

I really wanted the video to keep zooming further and further out.. That woosh sound was amazing.

Rehab (4, Funny)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 4 years ago | (#32931896)

Will Google be able to make Metaweb work on their omniscient scale, or was this just Google making sure a startup doesn't become yet another player in search?

Wrong and wrong, you see Google is freebasing [freebase.com] now:
 

The web isn’t merely words[, or water-soluble,] it’s information about things in the real world, and understanding the relationships between real-world entities...

Sometimes you have to give it a good ole "smoke-test" to see the possibilities...Google should be careful though, the path they have chosen is a slippery slope!

Re:Rehab (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32932564)

Wow, they bought both. Google is teh super corportation.

Re:Rehab (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32933204)

they are the same. Click the "Learn More" link and it talks about how google bought metaweb

Re:Rehab (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32934388)

Interesting thing I came upon at freebase. Apparently they cater to the crowd that wants to know whether something is a lube or not: http://lubenotlube.freebase.com/ [freebase.com]

For a web 2.0 company (1)

TyFoN (12980) | more than 4 years ago | (#32931918)

They sure have an ugly web page.

Re:For a web 2.0 company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32932096)

Maybe if you didn't use IE.....

Re:For a web 2.0 company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32932644)

I use Chrome, and it looks ugly for me too. I guess standards compliance is no substitute for design skills.

Re:For a web 2.0 company (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932694)

For a web 2.0 company ... They sure have an ugly web page.

Okay, two jokes come to mind right away:

1) That's why _Google_ bought them!
2) You already said 'web 2.0'; you don't need to say 'ugly' when you've said that.

Palantir (1)

Squib (124309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32931948)

Looks like this may be a way to make a play for competition in homeland security and business support, like Palantir [palantirtech.com] has done plus medical data tracking, and other possible extrapolations

I'm fairly sure it's not going to be used for just generating websites.

Expanding reach (2, Interesting)

ceraphis (1611217) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932078)

Slowly but surely google continues to acquire startups and expand their business. Not that I mind it that much in Google's case but isn't this the type of thing that Microsoft or AT&T eventually got hammered for?

Legitimately wondering if Microsoft and AT&T did it much more dastardly or if there's no significant comparison whatsoever.

Re:Expanding reach (2, Interesting)

thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932656)

In this case, Google is trying to enhance their core business that is search. The way we search on the internet is still quite primitive and it's also some kind of brute force. I bet all search engine providers are working on making their engines more intelligent and the result will ultimately decide which one will be the last one standing.

I hope they keep working on Gridworks (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932114)

One of the challenges with generating and using data sets is cleaning them up. Data entry errors, OCR failures, conflicts between multiple sources, etc. make it a pain to search and summarize data. Gridworks [google.com] helps me hunt down bad records and normalize fields. If it keeps improving, people might start using it before publishing their crap data.

Google Watch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32932178)

<forced straight face>
I think Google just wants a product that competes with Daniel Brandt's NameBase [namebase.org] .
</forced straight face>

Really good or Really bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32932180)

I originally thought this said "MEATweb", which either is an awesome web-based steak delivery service or the name of a pr0n site...

Freebase (1)

Haffner (1349071) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932322)

Was anyone else amused by this? (RTFA)

Something Alta Vista had Google does not... (5, Interesting)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932496)

In a way, I miss Alta Vista, in that they had a few things that Google does not:

  • NEAR operator (require the phases occur close in the page, which helped to eliminate the "pile of unrelated stuff" pages)
  • proper Boolean operators in the search, with arbitrary complexity (e.g. "((pre-emergent OR preemergent) AND herbicide AND liquid) AND NOT gluten")
  • and the thing that makes this post on-topic: Alta Vista had a search mode where-in you could refine your search by it presenting a set of additional search terms that helped qualify the meaning of what you searched for.

Say you searched for "wine", and activated that mode. It would present you with some possible extra terms you could search on, such as "white", "red", "tannic", "windows", "microsoft", "emulator".

Were you to be searching for the fermented beverage, you could select "red", "white", "tannic" and so on.
Were you searching for the ABI adapter package, you could select "windows", "Microsoft", and "emulator" (which yes, Wine is NOT...)

I'd love to see Google add that sort of refinement, ideally "learning" what sorts of terms go with what (Wine + tannic = beverage, wine + OLE = software).

Re:Something Alta Vista had Google does not... (1)

morcego (260031) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932604)

I wish they would just allow us to use regular expressions and be done with it ...

Re:Something Alta Vista had Google does not... (1)

IAmGarethAdams (990037) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932792)

Well, that might work if indexes were stored as full text representations of a string

Re:Something Alta Vista had Google does not... (3, Interesting)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932828)

I wish they would just allow us to use regular expressions and be done with it ...

There's a good reason why not - because of regex DDOS [wikipedia.org] with people inputting "N(o|oo)" to match "Nooooooo....ooooo!" (or similar).

Re:Something Alta Vista had Google does not... (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 4 years ago | (#32934054)

That's easy to fix by putting in a hard limit on the size of the returned text (yes, that breaks the principle of having a general regex). The real difficulty is efficiently building and maintaining an index that allows actual regex searching, such as (variations on) a suffix array [wikipedia.org] . Even for a small document collection, that sort of thing eats up a lot of resources.

Re:Something Alta Vista had Google does not... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944442)

If it is known, it can be prevented. If it can be prevented, your argument is invalid.

Re:Something Alta Vista had Google does not... (1)

omar.sahal (687649) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932938)

Alta Vista had a search mode where-in you could refine your search by it presenting a set of additional search terms that helped qualify the meaning of what you searched for.

This is in Google! I typed wine and if gave me a whole bunch of choices, like wine tasting and so on. Turn on JavaScript and it should work

Re:Something Alta Vista had Google does not... (2, Insightful)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 4 years ago | (#32933188)

It's not quite the same. The Alta Vista approach grouped the tags - it would have grouped "tasting" with "red" and "white", while grouping "OLE" and "DirectX" in a separate grouping. Moreover, it was smart enough to use that grouping to allow you to select the whole group.

Thus, Alta Vista was better able to detect that sometime "wine" means a beverage, and sometimes software, and that the two concepts are different.

Google still has trouble understanding that the fermented liquid and the software aren't the same thing - it just throws a bunch of other search terms at you.

Re:Something Alta Vista had Google does not... (1)

Jimmy King (828214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32934462)

Ah hah! Thank you! Every couple of months I find myself trying to remember which search engine used to offer the proper, complex boolean search functionality. Occasionally I even make the rounds through all of the old search engines (the ones that haven't just become aggregators of other search engines, anyway) and give it a try in case I can stumble upon it. I guess I'm out of luck on that.

From the early days to acquisition! (1, Interesting)

yppiz (574466) | more than 4 years ago | (#32932640)

I was on the founding team at Metaweb when we spun out of Applied Minds. I can answer some questions here, but first I wanted to congratulate the team that brought this company all the way to acquisition.

So, from the beginning we knew that semantic this and ontology that would be a non-starter for most contributors from Planet Earth. While Freebase is a complex system under the hood, the user interface makes contributing data to an existing type (schema) pretty easy. You can add content from a browser window and never know that all of your entries are typed by the system. You can upload a spreadsheet of data and not have to do anything more than say which column is linked to what field in Freebase.

My startup, 24 Hr. Diner, uses Freebase to demo our artist to artist recommendation engine, Jukebox. We have recommendations for 100k artists, and for each of them, we can look up their genre info and photo on Freebase without having to maintain all of that data ourselves.

And if anyone on Slashdot is working for a co. that could use an excellent recommendation engine that handles music, videos, and general web content, ping me!

Re:From the early days to acquisition! (1)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 4 years ago | (#32936768)

Pinging ganymede.cs.brandeis.edu [129.64.2.21] with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from 129.64.2.21: bytes=32 time=24ms TTL=47
Reply from 129.64.2.21: bytes=32 time=24ms TTL=47
Reply from 129.64.2.21: bytes=32 time=26ms TTL=47
Reply from 129.64.2.21: bytes=32 time=25ms TTL=47

Ping statistics for 129.64.2.21:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 24ms, Maximum = 26ms, Average = 24ms


/Sorry, dont actually need but this is slashdot I had to ping you

Re:From the early days to acquisition! (1)

yppiz (574466) | more than 4 years ago | (#32941502)

Pong!

Alternative Headline (1)

bestadvocate (816742) | more than 4 years ago | (#32935690)

Look forward to Freebasing with Google!

Innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32936106)

It seems to me all Google has done in the last few years is acquire one company after another, including Android. In house developments don't seem to be that innovative anymore and some of them turn out to be a useless piece of shit everybody hates, e.g. Buzz.

Well done, Google.

Google has it. (1)

NeoXon (1718618) | more than 4 years ago | (#32937368)

All your (free)base are belong to us.
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