Google buys Metaweb to improve results for complex search queries

Google moved to better its search results by acquiring Metaweb, a San Francisco based company that maintains an open database of "things," and their relationships to one another. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Metaweb's database currently includes some 12 million items, including places, notable people, companies, and movies. Queries to the Google search algorithm would return more relevant results as a result of the company's technology, the company claims.

"What about 'colleges on the west coast with tuition under $30,000' or 'actors over 40 who have won at least one Oscar?' These are hard questions, and we've acquired Metaweb because we believe working together we'll be able to provide better answers," Google product management chief Jack Menzel said in a blog post.

At first glance it appears that the technology would enable Google to handle more explicit queries accurately, akin to what has attempted to do with its plain language support. Google can already handle some basic queries to a specific answer the searcher may look for -- for example the capital of a country -- but cannot go much further than that.

It would also improve searches where the intention of the searcher may be difficult to ascertain from the query itself. For example, some search terms may have more than one possible result: Metaweb's technologies would help the search engine return possibly more relevant results.

The openness of Metaweb's database, dubbed Freebase, means that for the first time Google would begin to rely on data that wasn't compiled or managed in-house. The search company said the two companies would keep Freebase open.

"We plan to contribute to and further develop Freebase and would be delighted if other web companies use and contribute to the data," Menzel added.

Google has already stepped into the open knowledge database field with its Knol product, however that product is separate from its search functions.

More on Metaweb's technology can be found in this YouTube video.

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