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Freebase - Centralized control of the distributed web?

Added on by Chris Saad.
There is a buzz about the launch of Freebase by Metaweb technologies on the web at the moment.

From the New York Times:

"The idea of a centralized database storing all of the world’s digital information is a fundamental shift away from today’s World Wide Web, which is akin to a library of linked digital documents stored separately on millions of computers where search engines serve as the equivalent of a card catalog."
Is it just me or does this seem completely antithetical to the entire point of the Web in general and the Web 2.0 philosophy specifically?

Are we not trying to create a distributed, democratic and user-centric reality where the right of self-expression trumps data silos?

So why would we all be rushing to contain all data in a single database?

Wouldn't it be a more effective solution to build a search engine that could aggregate content across the web by extracting and indexing it in a structured way. Something that can look for Microformats as well as try to extract structured data from unstructured pages using semantic analysis (similar to AdaptiveBlue).

It could even offer its index/database via APIs.

The difference with this scenario, though, is that we don't all have to play nice with a single database/API - they have to play nice with us. This is about shifting power from the few, to the many after all.

It seems to me to attempt otherwise is moving in the wrong direction.

Am I missing something here? Let me know what you think...

Google vs The World

Added on by Chris Saad.
There is a post on Read/WriteWeb about 'The race to beat google'.

Alex and Richard compare the Google Competitors based on their points of differentiation and come to the fairly obvious conclusion that:

So overall, even though there is a lot of activity in the space, it seems like Google will remain the search king for the foreseeable future. Various approaches will have different degrees of success in seizing bits of the market, but to make a serious dent will require time, flawless execution, big marketing dollars and, of course, a better technology. This is not a trivial combination of things.

Alex goes on to say:

...another promising contender (mentioned by Emre) is personalized search. With this technology, search results are going to be organized not by PageRank but by your personal interests. It is likely that a combination of a vertical search and personalized search is going to deliver fundamentally better results than Google, so that might have a chance. However, as we pointed out with the other technologies. Google is not going to sleep through this.

A commenter called Eric, however, hits the nail on the head:

The only way Google is going to be beaten is when the next great paradigm shift in computing comes along. IBM wasn't beaten by another hardware vendor, it was beaten by Microsoft's operating system. Microsoft wasn't beaten by a another
operating system, it's being beaten by the web. It follows then that Google isn't going to be beaten by another search product, it will be beaten by something else.

It stands to reason that if any of these other things prove viable, Google will incorporate it into their own product. Just like Microsoft never plays the innovator with Windows - when you're the leader, you just have to be "good enough" and copy the best ideas from competitors.

The question we should be asking is: what's the next paradigm going to be?

So maybe this is not about beating Google at search, but rather going beyond 'search' and towards a new paradigm that is more useful.

Im surprised that both Alex and Richard did not mention Touchstone or APML in the article when referring to Personalization of results by comparing them against your interests.

I think, however, the next frontier for search specifically is not finding better pages, but better structured data in the form of microformats or other forms of structured data from inside pages (like Blue Organizer, Edgeio, Vast). Again, surprised that Alex didn't mention Blue Organizer or the other - considering he owns it. Maybe he did not want to show bias.

Also, going beyond multiple results at all to return the actual answer. Very much like AskX - now THAT's innovation.