March 1, 2008 (Vol. 28, No. 5)

URL:
http://www.freebase.com/

Rating:
Strong Points: Very interesting design and potential
Weak Points: Only an alpha release

Summary:
Freebase is an open, shared database of the world’s knowledge, or so it says on their opening page. Given that the system contains over 3.2 million topics, their claim may not be too inaccurate. The real test of a site for me is how well it deals with scientific information and it was with that in mind that I surveyed Freebase. Prominent on the opening page is a Science/Technology section with a pop-up menu that leads directly to Biology. Under that subsection, I was a bit frustrated at the lack of hierarchy to get me to material I was interested in. The online tutorial showed options not yet apparently enabled in biology for searching for information, so I wasn’t able to test the depth of Freebase information for biology. I was, however, very impressed by the design I saw in the tutorial, so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out. I note that the pages are currently only in alpha release, so there is a long way to go. Still, Freebase looks to be a very promising marriage of a Wiki and a search engine. Come back later for this one.

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