Freebase, a cutting-edge service that could turn out to be a milestone in semantic web technologies, is now in “public alpha”, which means everyone can access and use it. (Alpha is the new beta, you know …)
Freebase gatheres its data from open accessible data sources such as wikipedia and does an obviously highly sophisticated semantic analysis on it, which means this database/searchengine “knows” the data it handles. Additionally, registered users can alter the information easily (similar to Wikis, but in a data structured format, so it’s possible to add new types of data). Freebase is all about access to the massive amounts of human-generated content which came along with Web 2.0, and it’s about making sense of the data.
For example: If you search for Cory Doctorow, the result is a page that tells you what that “item” is (a person, an author, a blogger), his gender, date of birth, profession, a short description, books he wrote and so on:
Or try an apple search to explore the difference to conventional, not semantically-structured search engines. The possibility to add data allows you to easily make contributions, to complete your personal profile according to your needs, and so on.
There’s possibly not that much data in it by now (compared to established search engines), but imho, the results are impressing. Of course, they provide an API so anyone (or anything, like bots) will be able to do a structured query from any page or mashup – especially this feature, I guess, could turn out to be the most important aspect of freebase.
Active participation requires an account – I have 10 invitations to offer, so if you like to try it out, just leave a comment here and I’ll send you one.