Saturday 21 April 2018

Google buys Metaweb to 'improve' search

Google is on an acquisition spree having bought Metaweb and ITA, a flight information software company, during the last two weeks. Photo: Getty Images
Google is on an acquisition spree having bought Metaweb and ITA, a flight information software company, during the last two weeks. Photo: Getty Images

Emma Barnett

Google has acquired Metaweb, an internet information database company, in a bid to "improve its search" offering.

The search giant announced its acquisition late on Friday evening (July 16) via its company blog.

Jack Menzel, director of product management at Google, wrote: “We’ve acquired Metaweb, a company that maintains an open database of things in the world.

Working together we want to improve search and make the web richer and more meaningful for everyone.

“With efforts like ‘rich snippets’ and the ‘search answers feature’, we’re just beginning to apply our understanding of the web to make search better. Type [Barack Obama birthday] in the search box and see the answer right at the top of the page."

"Or search for [events in San Jose] and see a list of specific events and dates. We can offer this kind of experience because we understand facts about real people and real events out in the world.

“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.”

Metaweb had raised $15m in funding in 2006, followed by another $42.5m in 2008.

At the time, too, the company garnered significant publicity and although it had subsequently become less prominent, industry sources indicate that Google has paid more than has been invested in the company. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

It has also been suggested that the move by the search giant, to bolster its core search operation, demonstrates that it is beginning to look at ways of augmenting the algorithmic methods it currently uses to provide search results.

Menzel added: “In addition to our ideas for search, we’re also excited about the possibilities for Freebase, Metaweb’s free and open database of over 12 million things, including movies, books, TV shows, celebrities, locations, companies and more.

“Google and Metaweb plan to maintain Freebase as a free and open database for the world. Better yet, we plan to contribute to and further develop Freebase and would be delighted if other web companies use and contribute to the data."

"We believe that by improving Freebase, it will be a tremendous resource to make the web richer for everyone. And to the extent the web becomes a better place, this is good for webmasters and good for users.”

Google is on something of an acquisition spree, having recently announced the $700m cash acquisition of ITA, a flight information software company, in a bid to enter the lucrative digital travel market.

The search giant is hoping that the cash acquisition, the fourth largest in its history, will allow it to create bespoke search tools focused on travel.

ITA, which has been in existence for 14 years, aggregates and organises information it gathers from travel agents and airlines, including flight times, ticket prices and availability.

However, the deal needs approval by the US competition authorities, as the acquisition would bring together the world’s largest search engine with one of the biggest pieces of travel search software.

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