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Google Acquires Metaweb

With Metaweb's knowledge, Google aims to enhance its ability to understand search queries and deliver definitive answers.

Google on Friday said that it had acquired Metaweb Technologies, a semantic database start-up founded in 2005 that operates the open, shared database called Freebase, for an undisclosed sum.

Google intends to incorporate Metaweb's data and semantic technology into its search service to generate richer, more meaningful search results.

Google currently offers semantic technology, which brings some level of understanding to structured data, in the form of services like Google Squared and rich snippets.

With Metaweb and Freebase, Google expects it will be able to understand search queries better and to provide more comprehensive search results, even specific answers.

For example, entering "barack obama birthday" as a search query returns not only a list of search results but also a specific answer (Barack Obama date of birth -- 4 August, 1961) culled from online sources.

To have the confidence to present such an answer, Google has to be sure that it understands the query and provides the appropriate response.

"We can offer this kind of experience because we understand facts about real people and real events out in the world," explains Google director of product management Jack Menzel in a blog post. "But 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 intends to maintain Freebase and to continue to improve it. The company already has an open database of its own called Google Base.

The Metaweb acquisition is Google's 15th this year. With five more months to go in 2010, Google is on track to surpass its 2007 acquisition total of 16.

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