Where magic lives

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Thoughts on Freebase

I have been evaluating Freebase a fairly new site that is aiming to create an open database of everything. Think Wikipedia, but with user definable relational structure.

Here are my thoughts:

Weaknesses:

  • Permissions too lapse.
    Not extendible for uses such as a social network, could not easily be used to store private data for a website.
  • No notion of functions.
    Wouldn't it be really cool if users could submit functions as well as types, e.g. a function from post codes to latitude and longitude.
  • Can Metaweb Technologies be trusted?
    This is a lot more complicated than Wikipedia for other organisations to replicate. If Metaweb goes bust or bad is all the data lost?
  • Needs more data.
    It will be interesting to see at what rate the size of the database grows and what the typical method of inserting data will be. Many users will not go as far as learning the API but the current user interface is a bit too clunky for contributors. Refactoring using the Freebase site is currently more-or-less impossible, and a lot of refactoring should be expected for an openly writable database of everything in such an early stage!

Cool:

  • Users can create HTML only data driven web applications.

Possible (Mis-)uses:

  • To store low sensitivity, yet private, data (using cryptography).
    Think of it as a replacement for Amazon S3.
  • A truly open social network.
    At some point soon Facebook, Myspace, etc. have to face the openness interrogation that awaits most successful technology companies.
  • Free hosting with unlimited bandwidth.
    When the site is out of alpha anybody will be able to query the database.

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