Once you've logged in, the site has some nice Flash based tutorials that explain the idea behind the service pretty well. You can also browse the categories 'types' that are setup in freebase. Basically, they are designed to span the world's knowledge, a pretty ambitious goal. Top level types include:
- science and technology
- travel and dining
- special interests
The amount of data in these areas is still pretty small. They've pre-loaded data about films and restaurants; many of the demo applications take advantage of this data, such as cinespinner.
As I browsed through the categories, I thought about how similar this kind of organization is to library cataloging, especially authority control. It would be great if the catalog and authority data in WorldCat was pre-loaded into Freebase, as well as other datasets with a certain amount of authority such as the Getty Vocabulary Program. Seems like it would also make sense to massively load in data about consumer products.
How to convince organizations to put their data into this open database? Perhaps they could get a fee based on queries using their data when a Freebase account went over a certain daily query limit. Sort of an Amazon web services model. I guess that would make it unfree, technically, but what really is?
Thinking more broadly, once the rules were established for a global database of knowledge, it could be replicated and hosted by more than one organization--with each hosting company providing basic querying functionality but also perhaps some value added services. Those are my anti-monopolistic tendencies showing through.