Finding the Right Info…for free

Seems like companies that get paid for directories like OneSource and Hoovers are in trouble.

Was just reading Tim O'Reilly's piece on the alpha-version of freebase, an open database...kind of like wikipedia on sterorids.

Google created the umbrella on the 1st wave of the internet by giving us the Search paradigm of all search paradigms. Where it's fallen down is giving us the highest quality component. There's some, of course, but here's what I mean.

Last night, I did a Google search (yes, even I do them....while I think, particularly with Vista, Microsoft has the best desktop search, doesn't cut it on the web) and was, as usual, overwhelmed with the amount of responses I received.

For whatever reason, I said, "you know, let me try this on instead and see what others have bookmarked."

And you know what? Within 2 clicks, I got exactly what I wanted.

Yahoo started it off by having people (in 1 company) organize info in a directory structure.

Then, Google came along and automated the process.

Now, has brought it back to humans, but using an aggregated, distributed approach.

Now, tie these all together...

You find (note that your goal is to "find" not to "search) what you are looking for because other like-minded individuals have pointed you (in the aggregate) towards it.

You then use a Wikipedia (BTW, Fred Wilson's got a good post on Wikipedia today) to understand the context behind the content, for example, and then use a Freebase to identify the data that underlies it.

For example:you want to know how many government contractors there are in the DC area, so you

  1. search a for the best directory (as recommended by users) of this list
  2. use Wikipedia to understand exactly what issues are facing a government contractor
  3. and then use Freebase to search for all government contractors in DC with 20-200 employees

And none of this data is's supplied by the community.

Aggregating information (like newspapers, record companies) is another business model that is going the way of the dinosaur.

Where's the money?

Probably in analyzing and interpreting what it all means.

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