The official announcements are out, and my former employer Metaweb no longer exists. I’m happy that the ideas, and most of the people, have found a home, but it feels strange that the company is no longer a distinct entity. In many ways it makes a lot of sense for Google to end up owning them, and I hope the former-Metaweb-now-Google employees prosper.
Many of them are good friends of mine, and that in itself is significant. I was there for under two years; the proportion of people that I get on well with or admire (or both) there was very high. For the most part they did an excellent job of hiring, and of keeping the company culture coherent and inspiring.
My time there was important professionally as well as rewarding personally. It’s where I first really dug into Python, and through learning Python and working there I feel as if I embarked on a process that has seen me gain quite a few levels in the Software Engineer class. The exposure there to extremely skilled and accomplished people certainly helped me a great deal.
Those aren’t the only reasons I wish them all well. I still have the classic geek’s desire for a more rationally structured world, and the classic geek’s optimism that thinking about and organizing things in better ways can help bring that rational structure closer. Those combine to make me want to see realized the three major possibilities (in my view) that the Metaweb project presents:
- A canonical namespace/“topic DNS” for, well, everything, so that words can easily be annotated (and analyzed, and manipulated) with pointers that make their actual meaning clear.
- A public repository of schemas for more or less everything, so that individual groups or organizations could simply use and build upon those, rather than separately creating their own—standardization in that arena would vastly improve the user experience for innumerable things online (especially if you’re as picky as I am) and, not inconsequentially from my perspective, also eliminate all the work that programmers do reinventing the wheel with independently-developed schemas for common things.
- A public repository of all the data for all the things covered by the first two points. This is what most people probably think the key point of Metaweb/Freebase is, and while it’s certainly an amazing and lofty goal, it’s not more important than the first two, both of which could be truly revolutionary if done on a large enough scale (and adopted by sufficient numbers).
So, too all those moving to Google: best of luck, and I hope you succeed at those three goals!
To all those who have contributed, in ways large or small, to the project formerly known as Metaweb: well done, you’ve helped make something of potentially great importance, and I have no doubt that at some point the ideas you’ve helped develop will be extremely influential, and possibly ubiquitous. To even get this far towards such an outcome is no small achievement.